Moneyball ★★★★

MONEYBALL remains fascinating, and an odd duck of a film, because it is so many not-quite-a-things. It's a sports movie, sure, because it's ABOUT sports and about a charming underdog (even if that charming underdog is economic theory) and it has the climactic sports sequence you need in a sports movie, but ultimately the team loses in the post-season and the lead character explains repeatedly that winning and losing are relatively meaningless to him. It's a process movie, but the process isn't the point either. It's not quite a comedy (although it has lots of reliably funny bits) and it's not quite a drama (although it has a lot of dramatic bits too).

What it is, mostly, is a vehicle for Brad Pitt to enter his elder statesman period, where his characters can graciously be middle-aged. Pitt is allowed, now, because of MONEYBALL, to appear to be old-man-fit rather than prime-of-life-fit. He's allowed to play cranky and contrarian now because of this movie. This movie succeeding essentially enabled the last third of Pitt's career.

(Yes, I know WORLD WAR Z, where he's playing ten years below his true age at least, exists and came out two years after MONEYBALL did, but come on, we're talking general trends.)

In any event, though, as vehicles for enabling a bankable star's later bankability go, this is a good one. It has a very smart script, and Pitt and Jonah Hill lead a passel of good (mostly underrecognized character) actors doing good work, and Bennett Miller and the script make the smart choice of showing as little baseball as possible, because baseball is honestly a pretty boring sport in visual terms (and most others, let's be honest) and unless you slo-mo the fuck out of everything it's the least exciting sport to film. And MONEYBALL doesn't bother trying to film a lot of it, so that's another smart choice in a movie full of them.