' ' Cinema Romantico: Notes on Set Design

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Notes on Set Design

It has been 10 years since the release of Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball.” And given that the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays, maestros of the Moneyball ethos, are about to gear up for another run at the World Series they almost won last year, it would seem an appropriate moment to write about the movie’s examination of the ancient grudge match between science and romance. We are not, however, here to write about science and romance. We are here to write about set design, which in the world of cinema is just as important. 

Because when we first see the bachelor pad of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), it looks all wrong, too interior decorator, not enough baseball lifer. But upon further reflection, you realize it is just right. It’s just right because he probably did hire some interior decorator to plot this whole place out, this kind of place where some powerful dude would hole up, this kind of place that would look classy and of a certain salary, and instead wound up with a home where he looks entirely out of place. 

No wonder he listens to his team’s road games in an empty Oakland Coliseum; those stadium seats are more homey to him than his couch!

In a way, Billy’s house does not look all that different from the house of his ex-wife Sharon (Robin Wright) and her new husband (Spike Jonze). And when Pitt has Beane take a look around, he looks like he knows he’s out of place, and is sort of half-realizing in the moment. “Awwwww, man,” you can imagine him thinking in a voice that probably sounds like Floyd from “True Romance” if Floyd had played Little League. 

And his awkwardness is slyly contrasted against Sharon’s comfort, evinced in how Wright cozily kind of draws herself into the sofa. 

The bedroom of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), meanwhile, Billy’s assistant GM and prominent Moneyball proponent? I dunno, man. The general barrenness might be on point but the Plato poster? That’s overkill. You already told us he majored in Economics at Yale. Chill out.

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