Variety gives ‘Moneyball’ strong review

My Variety colleague Peter Debruge reviewed “Moneyball,” which premiered today at the Toronto Film Festival. Here are the first and last paragraphs:

Throwing the conventional sports-movie formula for a curve, “Moneyball” defies the logic that auds need a rousing third-act championship game to clinch their interest. Instead, writers Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin resurrect the old adage “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” to drive this uncannily sharp, penetrating look at how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane helped reinvent baseball based on statistics rather than conventional wisdom. Sparing auds the technicalities but not the spirit of financial reporter Michael Lewis’ business-of-baseball bestseller, “Moneyball” should appeal beyond — if not always to — the game’s fans. …

Another approach might have treated the source material as exposition for a more conventional baseball story, but “Moneyball” is content to draw back the curtain and find drama in the dealings. Miller’s low-key style suits that strategy nicely, breaking up shop-talk scenes with artful, quiet moments in which Beane steps away from the action, nicely captured by d.p. Wally Pfister. Though Soderbergh’s talking-heads idea fell by the wayside, the end result does employ a fair number of documentary techniques, cutting to MLB footage to illustrate the team’s on-field performance and featuring a score by Mychael Danna that echoes Philip Glass’ work on several Errol Morris pics.

“Moneyball” officially opens in theaters September 23.

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