Jonah Hill Throws a Curveball
Lee, Chris, Newsweek
Byline: Chris Lee
The comedian drops his stoner act and embraces his nerdy side in 'Moneyball.'
In Moneyball, based on the 2003 nonfiction bestseller book of the same name, Brad Pitt swings for the proverbial fences: his character sets out to fundamentally change the game of baseball. Portraying Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, he attempts to build a pennant-worthy team entirely composed of washed-up misfits who grounded out on other major-league squads. In the process, the A's give richer teams with higher-paid athletes a serious run for their money.
The film's real game changer, though, is Jonah Hill. The baby-faced, potty-mouthed star of such raunchy comedies as Superbad and Get Him to the Greek plays spectacularly against type. As Peter Brand, an Ivy League-educated wonk, he helps Beane assemble his roster by crunching numbers and using an arcane analysis called sabermetrics rather than, say, checking scouting reports or hanging around dugouts.
Against all expectations, Hill, 27, is a revelation. Unlike so many funnymen stuck in the comedy ghetto for decades, he has transitioned from cracking boner jokes in druggy bromances to reciting dialogue by Moneyball's Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and holding his own opposite drama heavyweight Philip Seymour Hoffman and Hollywood's reigning Adonis, Brad Pitt.
Hill admits he wept tears of joy after the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. And he's taking nothing for granted about the newfound appreciation and attention.
"I was the underdog on a list of Oscar nominees you'd expect to see in this movie," Hill says during his Toronto visit. "I'll make comedies as long as they'll let me. But I like to be in different kinds of movies. …