When I first watched Moneyball I was distracted by Brad Pitt’s mouth. No, not because it’s so pretty and kissable and attached to that Benjamin Button-ish face of his, but because he just kept putting food in it. Brad Pitt eats and drinks so often in Moneyball that I started a Twitter-based tally. The man ate a lot of crap, from a Twinkie, to popcorn, to a cheeseburger. He ate when no one else was eating. He ate while walking out of a meeting. He ate while driving a car. I mean, how was this guy not SuperSized by the end of production?
When I started my Twitter tally I complained about how Brad Pitt eats a lot of food in a lot of his movies. My tally led to spirited debates on multiple social networking sites (with fellow bloggers) and over the phone (with a family member). My complaint on Twitter was that Pitt’s endless mastications were–like my use of the word mastication just now–really effing distracting. The chewing muffles his words, interrupts the flow of scenes, and is generally just too noticeable. Honestly, Pitt eats and drinks so often that “Pitt’s Food Challenge” would be a fantastic drinking game.
I’m relieved to say that, though some of my friends disagreed with me, I was not the first to complain about this trend. Indeed, Vulture posted “Brad Pitt Eating in Movies: The Definitive Food Diary” back when Moneyball was first released. Since I first complained about this Pitt-nomenon about 5 people have sent me a link to this video, too:
The Pitt-Food phenomenon pretty much dates back to Ocean’s Eleven. The story goes that Pitt and director Steven Soderbergh decided Pitt’s character, Rusty Ryan, should eat in every scene because 1) someone as busy as a heist-planner would eat food on the fly and 2) it would be funny. This concept made sense for Ocean’s Eleven since it fit the character, plot, and tone of the movie; it also became a running joke for the Ocean’s sequels. Ocean’s Eleven is a heist movie that’s also a comedy, so the use of a ‘running gag’ is appropriate. But since then, Pitt has used this gag in a number of more dramatic movies, and it’s making me…well …gag.
As my colleague Andreas rightly pointed out to me, the constant consumption in Moneyball is a physical manifestation of Billy Beane’s physical and mental exertions, as well as his general state of unease. Beane is ceaselessly working to keep his life and team whole, so the consumption of food represents the nurturing and sustenance that keeps him and the team going. I can appreciate that Pitt is thinking about his performances and working to create memorable characters; regardless of my complaints, his performance in Moneyball remains noteworthy. Ultimately what bothers me is that Pitt is asking spectators to let him use the same technique to different effect in Ocean’s Eleven (and Twelve and Thirteen…and…and…and!) and Moneyball. What is supposed to be a running joke in Ocean’s Eleven is now supposed to mean something in Moneyball. Unfortunately, it’s nigh impossible for me to shift my interpretation of Pitt eating from comedy to drama. My brain associates all those Twinkies and cups of coffee with laughter, and I just can’t turn off that association because Pitt has decided to use it as a tool in his Serious Movie toolkit, even if the choice to do so is legitimate and useful to the movie. I can only hope that in the future Pitt will convey anxiousness in a way that isn’t so hard to swallow.