Ever since he famously hitched a ride with a couple of outlaws named Thelma and Louise 20 years ago, Brad Pitt has been waging a tireless battle to be taken seriously by movie critics. Over the past two decades, Pitt has claimed a handful of victories (Twelve Monkeys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Tree of Life). Still, he’s never really been able to shake the absurd perception that someone as easy on the eyes as he is can’t be both a serious, capital-A actor and a dreamy movie star. I can’t imagine there are any doubters left after Moneyball (2011, PG-13, 2 hrs., 13 mins.). It’s easily the best, least showy, and most lived-in performance of Pitt’s career. As Billy Beane, the major-league ballplayer-turned-general manager of the cash-strapped Oakland A’s baseball team, Pitt is a David fighting deep-pocketed Goliaths like the Yankees. He can’t outspend New York, so he’s forced to outsmart them — first by recruiting a nerdy, number-crunching stats geek played by a terrific (who knew?) Jonah Hill, then by assembling a ragtag squad of undervalued players who look a hell of a lot better on paper than they do in their uniforms. The movie, which is based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-seller, is a rousing story about second chances, outside-the-box thinking, and the idiocy of conventional wisdom, with a bunch of math thrown in. But it’s Pitt’s nuanced turn — a cocktail of tobacco-chewing jock charisma and nagging self-doubt — that elevates Moneyball above standard sports treacle like The Blind Side (also from a Lewis book). I’m not giving anything away to say that Pitt’s crew of misfit toys don’t win in the end. But they prove the doubters wrong. And that’s a subject Pitt knows a little something about. A-
ON THE 'MONEY' Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Genre: Drama, Biography; Starring: Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Brad Pitt; Director: Bennett Miller; Author: Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian; Release Date Wide: 09/23/2011; Status: In Season; Runtime (in minutes): In Season; MPAA Rating: In Season; Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Posted January 6 2012 — 12:00 AM EST
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