Friday, September 9, 2011

TIFF: Pitt and Clooney Unveil Moneyball and The Ides of March

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2011 at 1:30 PM

The Toronto International Film Festival brought the curtain up on Sept. 8 with a couple of major leaguers: Clooney and Pitt.

If I were to recommend a film that is, at its heart, an excellent examination of economics, I doubt you would have too much interest. If I were to tell you that it takes part in the world of major league baseball, you might have a bit more interest. And it stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. There, that did it. That's probably why entertainment reporters from all over the globe were falling over one another to grab a seat at the exclusive press preview of Moneyball, which is scheduled for nationwide release on Friday, Sept. 23.

Moneyball is money. Big money. It should probably hit an inside-the-park homer at the box office and with good reason: It's funny. It's one of the few successful Hollywood treatments of the national pastime. It's the hard-to-believe true story of Billy Beane and his attempt to create one of the best baseball teams in modern history, with very few financial resources.

The script was co-written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) and you can tell—it crackles. Pitt's performance is major league, and this is the best role that Hill has faced thus far, and he rises to the challenge. I will definitely pay to see this again in a Boise theater.

Moneyball Opens Sept. 23
  • Moneyball opens Sept. 23.

Another big blockbuster had an exclusive press showing on Sept. 8: The Ides of March, which was directed and written by and stars George Clooney.

To use another baseball analogy, Clooney is swinging for the fences with this one. He packed the film with Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman (talk about double plays) and Marisa Tomei. Clooney also rides the current political wave in this tale of a Democratic governor in the throes of a race for the White House. I recommend The Ides of March but with a couple of caveats:

First, the source material is weak. The film is based on the off-Broadway play, Farragut North, and it takes too much pleasure in the glimpses of backroom politics. Audiences are too sophisticated to be in awe of Hollywood's version of double-dealings—by now, we've seen too much of the real thing on the nightly news.

Second, The Ides of March is based on one secret. A plot like this requires two or three. I won't give it away, but you can see the secret coming a full half-hour before the film's big reveal. That said, the script is better than the play, and Clooney had the foresight to put Gosling in the starring role.

The Ides of March opens Oct. 7, 2011
  • The Ides of March opens Oct. 7.

Clooney and Pitt will dust off their tuxedos for the red carpet this weekend when their movies get glamorous premieres. They're expected to meet with the press soon after.

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