Mr. and Mrs. Smith – Doug Liman and the casting of the centrury. (Film Review)
Anyway you slice it, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a contemporary classic – and yes yes yes, I know what the common contrarian thinking is on this issue, but the reason “everyone hates” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is the same reason that makes Mr. And Mrs. Smith work so perfectly well. There is something truly spectacular about the image of the pair at the end of the film back to back, in a domestic homewares store, firing every kind of mother-f@#$ing-gun into a world turned against them. The image gains significance as time goes by, given the enormity of Hollywood’s only true power couple able to exhibit the glamour of 1940’s and 1950’s Hollywood, and the fact that this film heralds the birth of their relationship marks its ongoing interest. Add to this, the pair can act and obviously have an intense sexual chemistry that blisters on screen resulting in a hilarious film that gets more and more surreal, summed up in the brilliant line called out with incredulity by the kidnapped Adam Brody from the backseat of their minivan, “Who are you people?”
There simply isn’t another couple today and there have been very few in the history of film that could have pulled off a film like this one, and considering they fell in love on set, even the pair themselves had no idea where the significance of the film would really lie. They are not only the worlds most beautiful people, they are also the worlds sexiest couple (no need to tell me either is not “your type” in the comments, I totally get that we all “like what we like”, just try to stay with me here) and until they met each other in this film, impossibly more beautiful and sexy than any previous co-star for either. The cleverness of Doug Liman’s direction here, is that he gleans the famous best from each individual; Brad Pitt has that school boy charm striking a confusing balance between goofy and gifted, and Angelina Jolie does her pristine, cool, perfect Domme thing (She’s even dressed like that at one pint) and on screen even the mutual schtick finds a rhythm, so that by the end, even the greatest Hollywood cynic can’t help but believe this couple are in love with each other. The look in Brad Pitts eye as he watches her could melt your heart, and her steely determination to stay angry in spite of all her feelings is compellingly real. We watch breathless, as the two most beautiful people in the world fall in love with each other.
As well as all that carry-on, there is the ridiculous plot line, again preserved in a kind of immaculate Hollywood resin by the hilarious idea of Pitt and Jolie tearing at the hallmarks of domestic perfection – an ideal they have poured endless time and money into building ever since. I never tire of watching them tear down that house – it carries ten times the punch of DeVito’s War of the Roses (an overrated film in my books) again because Pitt and Jolie can do something no one else can – there is nothing like their chemistry or sex appeal in Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglass. One of my all time favourite screen pairings occurs the scene where they beat the living crap out of each other, an enormously inappropriate visual given all the drama and subtext of domestic abuse, but again it is turned into something else entirely when it is Pitt and Jolie. The sexual burn between the pair is palpable, as for a full minute they lay into each other. Brad Pitt leaps out of a smoking kitchen to plough a knee directly into Angelina Jolie who in turn thrusts him heavily into a wall. After lifting her and smashing her through a table, he stalks around her like some sort of great gorgeous sensual cat, raising his fists with his “Come on honey. Come to Daddy,” only to have his head cut against a smashed vase just before his wife gives him a Liverpool kiss. As he stumbles back, she turns her head and with that incredible head of hair spilling over one eye, she says in her sultry voice “Whose your Daddy now?”
Yet, no matter how tiresome the pair may be in RL (as if we can ever guess or imagine what real life could be for either of these people) they both have a unique ability to poke fun at themselves on screen despite the acting, performance and star power talent of both of them. They have a tremendous amount of fun with their lines, the domestic battle of wills all couples recognise spilling over into their jobs working together as spies. Doug Liman appears to be having wonderful fun as well, though he did comment in the DVD audio commentary on this film, that they wanted more sex and violence but couldn’t in order to satisfy rating conditions. I can understand the desire to take it a little darker – perhaps move the film in the direction of excess – given what he found he was working with, and in some ways it is the restraint that hampers the films register as highly appreciated as it should be. Still, Mr. and Mrs. Smith was an enormous commercial success, even if not a critical one, being the most financially successful for both stars once it hit the box office. The true value of Mr. and Mrs. Smith will be seen in time – even when I was watching it this week, it looked so much better than the first time I saw it – particularly as the power couple move further and further into the strange Hollywood life they and the rest of us have fashioned for them.