The Ides of March and Moneyball are two relatively recent films in which Philip Seymour Hoffman did not star, but rather provided crucial, essential and, as always, very strong supporting performances.
The Ides of March is a film that George Clooney not only stars in but that he also co-wrote and directed. And, really, he’s not the star here. Like Hoffman, Clooney is just a supporting player here. At the heart of The Ides of March is the Ryan Gosling character, Stephen Meyers. Stephen is the crux of this story. He is the pivot which all of the other action and characters revolve around. Stephen is a deputy campaign manager for a presidential candidate (Clooney) who at first seems untouchable. But soon, skeletons appear peeking out of the closets. Stephen finds himself caught in the middle of a potential scandal that could bring down both the campaign and his own career. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the candidate’s senior campaign manager. His time on screen is limited, but as always with Hoffman, his performance is larger than life and full of passion and vigor.
Moneyball is a film that I truly did not understand. I would have seen it regardless of the subject (um, two words…Brad Pitt) and the fact that I did not understand it does not mean I didn’t like it. I did. This is a strong film about baseball. And math and statistics. I like baseball. I am not a math person. And let’s not even go into statistics. But, the story doesn’t require much understanding of the subject, per se. Just as with Margin Call, another film I loved but did not understand much of, Moneyball’s script is constructed in a way that the subject is really pretty much irrelevant. What matters here is the WAY the story is told. And the acting has to be top-notch, which it is…on all fronts, starting with Brad Pitt, who is at the top of his game here, so to speak. He was nominated for Best Actor and he deserved that nomination (he was a long shot at winning but it’s an honor to be nominated, right?). Pitt plays Billy Beane, a real-life general manager of the Oakland Athletics (still is). Set in 2002, Beane ends a season, knowing he will be losing three of his top players…his ONLY top players…because he doesn’t have money to pay them what they are worth. He tries to get more money. No go. He tries to trade so-so players for some better players. No go. Finally, he meets a young upstart with panache for economics and numbers who has an idea about a new system for rating players. Basically, the system is analytical and sabermeric (baseball analysis through statistics). Beane, being desperate, decides to try this new method, against the odds from most everyone else in the Athletics’ front office, not to mention the team’s manager, played by Hoffman. Whether you like baseball or not…whether you like numbers or not, Moneyball is an enjoyable film and will provide a solid night’s entertainment.