And She Eats Men Like Air
Date of Assessment: July 23, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Action, focus, intensity
Negative Buzzwords: Tabloids, drama, Aniston
The Case: Well, I do believe that -- at least according to the "women have always been the worst enforcers of misogyny" school of thought -- I'm supposed to hate Angelina Jolie, although I'm not entirely sure why. Supposedly, she's a freakishly beautiful, husband-stealing, Oscar-baiting, brother-kissing, vial-of-blood-wearing voodoo priestess and do-gooding humanitarian who's adopted a veritable rainbow of children, not to mention -- let's face it -- one strange cat. Unfortunately for those of you rubbing your hands together in gleeful anticipation, I actually love Angelina Jolie.
At least, I adore the action-movie Jolie incarnation, which is where she's truly needed in Hollywood. Although, it is slightly bizarre how Jolie has become an unparalleled go-to-girl for action leads and a rather peerless one at that. Sure, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, Uma Thurman, and a handful of others have done similar things at specific points in their careers, but they haven't endured in their action-based appeal like Jolie has. These days, Milla Jovovich and Kate Beckinsale are the closest one can possibly get to an action femme before leaping several stories ahead to Jolie territory. And it's certainly not a case of Jolie's otherworldly beauty reeling in the already predisposed male action fans out there. Remember when Cindy Crawford, Nicole Kidman, and Meg Ryan tried their hands at action movies? That didn't work out quite so well, so one can't exactly pinpoint Jolie's ass-kicking appeal as a simple matter of men enjoying the act of watching boobs move to and fro while attached to a gun-wielding goddess.
Of course, Jolie is often described in terms of her striking good looks, but that's actually a secondary draw to the raw force exuded from within and the fact that she doesn't do anything halfway by any measure. When Jolie is on screen, it's nearly impossible to pay attention to anything else other than her powerful presence. Further, while she certainly doesn't exude "muscle-bound" as a physical descriptor, that doesn't stop Jolie from literally throwing herself into the roles and being a damn good entertainer. With Salt, she took over a role that was originally written for a man (notwithstanding the fact that the man was Tom Cruise) and made it her own role instead of a glammed-up joke of a girl in a man's world. So, not only does Jolie earn as much (or more, as is the case with $20 million for Salt) as the top male actors out there, but she's also taking their roles too and doing a damn good job of it.
These days, Jolie employs neither an agent or a publicist and calls the shots on her own, but it wasn't always this way. After making a promising splash with Gia and enduring her first mainstream role in The Bone Collector, Jolie began indiscriminately accepting roles in everything from bottom dwelling pics like Beyond Borders and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; fleeting stabs at romcom hell such as Life or Something Like It; oddball movies like Pushing Tin and Original Sin; and an occasional stroke of genius with Girl Interrupted (for which she collected the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress). That latter choice might be what sometimes pushes Jolie to pursue serious dramas -- Changeling, A Mighty Heart, and The Good Shepard -- in which she excels but no one wants to watch. Thankfully, she seems to have dropped these Oscar-baiting temptations in favor of returning to her true calling. And as silly as it may seem, these action flicks -- Gone in Sixty Seconds, a pair of Tomb Raider movies, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Wanted, and Salt -- have essentially become her legacy.
Wisely, Jolie has also decreased the frequency of her onscreen appearances, although this might be due to those infamous family demands. Whatever the true cause of this phenomenon, it serves to rally up the pent-up demand for Jolie movies, so when they do happen, it's a damn event. She's also wisely chosen to turn down sequels (for both Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Wanted) that, earlier in her career, would have happened without question. In the case of Wanted (which, for the record, I quite enjoyed), she shot down the chance for an inarguably fat paycheck at the expense of ruining the first movie. Her character, Fox, had taken her own life for an honorable reason (after learning that The Code no longer existed except as a means for Sloane to make money and that she'd killed people against the rule of fate), and bringing Fox back to life (presumably, with a healing bath) would have stomped all over her character's soul. While I'm swerving off the somewhat well-beaten path of a career assessment here, what I'm trying to say is this: I honestly appreciate Jolie recognizing that a sequel was never in the cards for Wanted instead of milking the cow for spoilt milk. May Jolie continue to ride high on adrenaline flicks and ignore all of the other bullshit.
Prognosis: Next up, Jolie goes up against Johnny Depp (taking a much-needed respite from the Tim Burton universe) in The Tourist, which will guarantee some massive box office receipts. If she can continue the trend of infrequent yet well-planned screen appearances, Jolie can only go up from here. More worrisome, however, are the Cleopatra rumors, which could signal a temporary return to sprawling yet disastrous epics such as Alexander. With any luck, Cleopatra will get stuck in development hell, and Jolie shall continue her reign of fierceness.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.