Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hollywood Royalty Plays with Guns: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)


Mr. and Mrs. Smith tells the modest, self-effacing story of two hit people who happen to be married to each other in New York City. Competently directed by Doug Limon, the guy who made The Bourne Identity, this film has a PG-13 rating, which means that the slaughter of many minor characters has the emotional impact of a video game, and Angelina Jolie wears a bra during a sex scene.

Principally a movie about cheekbones, about what life is like being cuter and more famous than you little people in the theatres, the storyline itself is as gossamer a pretext as the two leads’ names. Jane and John Smith are bored with their five or six year marriage so they seek counseling. John grimaces at the ugly new green curtains that his wife placed on the living room windows. Jane tries inserting some peas into their dinner, but something is wrong: you can tell by the bland way they brush their pearly teeth with the twin drones of their electric brushes.

Yet, on any given evening, Jane may sneak off in a dominatrix outfit to play some hanky panky with an Iranian prince before breaking his neck. She then uses her unspooling metallic purse to drop 8 flights off the edge of a building before hailing a taxi back home. John may also run off to charm himself into a poker game by acting drunk before shooting three armed men, one behind his back. They both use the fancy technological gadgetry one would expect to find in a Mission Impossible sequel. Naturally, on a parallel mission in the Arizona desert they find themselves shooting at each other with bazookas. Jane abruptly turns to her crew of foxy babe assistants, a gang no doubt resembling Jolie’s actual entourage, to find out who that guy out in the desert was. Pretty soon Jane and John find themselves obliged to murder each other over pot roast at home.

The film is entertaining in a shallow way, but I was bothered by the hint of complacency on Brad Pitt’s face, the sense after awhile that these stars are basically untouchable, that nothing is really at stake except the occasional photogenic flesh wound. Vince Vaughn’s occasional wisecracking appearance as John’s friend Eddie was a relief because he is at least recognizably human. I guess one could read into the film a kind of statement about the battle lines of marriage now finding their perfect expression in submachine gunfire. Being a hit man does lend itself to the Hollywood treatment, and one can trace a lineage for this film in other better ones like “Leon: The Professional,” “The Femme Nikita,” and “Grosse Point Blank,” but really whether the movie is any good is almost beside the point.

Don’t they make a cute couple, and isn’t exchanging gunfire erotic? They make witty comments like “It was just a little bomb” and “At times I wanted to kill her.” Angelina Jolie stole Brad from Jennifer Aniston in the course of making the film, so people can now watch it in the context of their burgeoning love. In a film about a dull marriage, what irony! Do they kill Jennifer early on in the film? Can you see the light of a dawning love in their eyes? Individually so gorgeous, how can they find the energy to love one another? Could Brad’s and Angelina’s repeated denials of their purported mad passion for each other have anything to do with marketing the movie? Think of the tabloid meltdown if they got together with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and swapped partners.

3 comments:

JUS said...

I have to admit I liked this one. There is a certain indulgent guilt that accompanied my enjoyment, not unlike when someone overhears me ask for a double-pump of salty popcorn oil.

I hear you about the smug shallowness of the characters, but still... Brangelina in a fight with weapons... SEQUEL!

RCF said...

You will get a sequel of a sort later this month, if you don't mind substituting James McAvoy for Brad Pitt in Angelina Jolie's "Wanted."

JUS said...

McAvoy has the kind of adaptable face that could successfully reprise both Robert Patrick's cyborg role in Terminator II and Mary Pickford's Kiki.

I saw the trailer for Wanted and it looks like we'll get both modes from him: male ingenue and durable hunter. Should be fun!