Review in a Hurry: Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) may frequently wonder aloud how anyone could not find baseball romantic, but it's actually pretty easy. A bunch of guys standing around in a field waiting to hit a round ball with a stick...well, there are endless subtleties to be found within for the faithful, and they will likely get the most out of this movie.
For the rest of us, the entertaining banter between Pitt and Jonah Hill isn't quite enough to make such an insular world compelling.
The Bigger Picture: The Social Network came close to winning Best Picture last year because it managed to be a fascinating look at backstabbing colleagues regardless of whether or not the viewer understood how to use Facebook. Moneyball—shot in a David Fincher-like hi-res, heavy-shadow sheen by The Dark Knight's cinematographer Wally Pfister—does its best to make a debate about baseball statistics interesting.
But if you don't care about the game, it's really hard to tell why you should have any emotional investment in the tale.
Beane, a real-life player-turned-scout, and his hand-selected assistant GM Peter Brand (Hill), a fictionalized composite, made waves by assembling teams based on achievement statistics and correlations rather than the inherent talents of the individuals (this was partially out of financial necessity, as the Oakland A's couldn't afford the best players).
The strategy surprised many observers by succeeding, at least initially—but for those who don't know the real story, the suspense here is whether it can hold up through an entire season. The rub is that the only people who really care about the answer likely already know it.
Yes, it's fun to watch Pitt and Hill trade funny lines, many of which were written by The Social Network's Aaron Sorkin. And there's some satisfaction to be had any time irreverent rebels stand up against a staid system that has closed itself off to new ideas.
But Pitt-as-Beane seems like a generally chill dude (save one or two tantrum-ish moments) who'll be fine no matter what happens, and the moral of the story is to enjoy the journey, win or lose.
In case that isn't clear to you, young Kerris Dorsey, as Beane's daughter, sings a Juno-esque song over the end credits with lyrics that spell it out (Dorsey is great otherwise; it's not her fault she got saddled with the climactic public service announcement).
It's tempting, and futile, to imagine what original director Steven Soderbergh could have done with the same story, as opposed to Capote's Bennett Miller.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Sports fans seeking intellectual justification for their obsession will probably find it, somewhere in here.