Brad Pitt’s cinematic TED Talks

Monday, March 26th, 2012 Movies / Politics

After finally watching Moneyball I realized what it’s got in common with David Fincher’s sublime, belatedly-appreciated tract Fight Club: Brad Pitt as an onscreen salesman for an abstract idea. In both movies, a reasonably subtle concept (that runs strongly against the cultural grain) has to be conveyed clearly to the audience, not as some ancillary grace note, but as the fundamental armature of the story.

Chuck Palahniuk’s urgent anti-consumerist (near-Marxist) diatribe and Billy Beane’s (somewhat less revolutionary—not literally about blowing things up, as in Fincher’s pre-9/11 epic) statistical baseball-team assembly methodology (which contains a much larger idea about the proving grounds that surround entrenched social systems) are each densely-packed, abstract constructions. And yet, in each movie, Brad Pitt makes speech after speech, hammering the idea until even the most resistant onscreen listeners (and audience members) not only get the point but passionately agree.

It turns out that our generation’s Redford has a much more clearly defined talent for delivering rhetoric (in the classical sense) than his activist predecessor (whose ’70s movies worked just as hard to advance then-current anti-establishment agendas). Brad Pitt is our big-screen TED-talk lecturer (maybe he can be paid to deliver physics lectures or literary analyses). Who would have guessed, back when he was showing Geena Davis how to rob a convenience store?