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dir Bennett Miller
scr Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
prd Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt
with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Reed Thompson, Kerris Dorsey, Brent Jennings, Ken Medlock, Jack McGee, Nick Porrazzo
release US 23.Sep.11, UK 25.Nov.11
11/US Columbia 2h03
Let's play ball: Pitt and Hill
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on Michael Lewis' nonfiction book, this film is written, directed and played with both intelligence and emotion. And the most impressive thing is the way it avoids sentimentality at every turn, even when things turn emotional.
After an unsuccessful career as a baseball player, Billy Beane (Pitt) is now the general manager of the Oakland A's. But the team's low budget makes it unable to compete with the league's wealthy clubs. Then he meets Peter (Hill), an economist who uses stats and numbers to rank players, and they work out a system to field a championship team within budget. Getting the coach (Hoffman) to go along with this is virtually impossible, and baseball's old timers think Billy is insane. Until the A's start winning.
Since this is based on a true story, the plot avoids the pitfalls of most sports-themed movies. But this is also due to the way the director and writers studiously avoid cliches. They also pack the movie with intelligent dialog that never gets bogged down in the mythical wonder of baseball. Sure, that's in there, but it never takes over Field of Dreams-style. Instead, with its "nerds rule the world" theme, it's more like The Social Network with a bit of heart and soul.
And the cast is excellent. Although a stronger sense of humour would have made them more loveable, the actors bring each character to life with detail and charm. Even with a big movie idol like Brad Pitt front and centre, it remains grounded and real. Billy's flashbacks to himself as a younger player (Thompson) never get lost in nostalgia, and his relationships with his ex-wife (Wright) and daughter (Dorsey) are believably complex.
Less clear is the point of it all, beyond perhaps never giving up on what you believe to be the right thing to do. The film never implies that you'll always be a winner, but by playing it straight and keeping the characters realistic it does remind us that, while the world is a tough place, being true to ourselves and the people we love is a pretty good way to start when faced with a tempting decision.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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