Bright Lights Film Journal

Bride of the Joker: Thoughts on Jolie

As we prepare for Oscar once again, we see Angelina Jolie nominated for being in Clint’s “craftsmanship” film, CHANGELING. I heartily admire Jolie but, for my money, she’s never found a part worthy of her since her Oscar winning character Lisa in GIRL, INTERRUPTED (1999).

The equivalent of that live wire performance this year isn’t CHANGELING but rather THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: Heath Ledger as the Joker. Consider the similarities: Both films feature lead protagonists choked by the duty of being the “moral hero” while the supporting “heavy” not only steals the show, they actually mutate and bend the very picture around them. Both films have directors who got their names making edgy one-word title indies (Chris Nolan for MEMENTO, James Mangold for HEAVY) and have since gone mainstream. In each instance they let their supporting star run with the ball, or carry the edginess torch–while the rest of the cast work on satisfying the mundane moral expectations of the general admission masses. Without Jolie, GIRL would be little more than a Lifetime movie of the week; and without Ledger, DARK KNIGHT would be just a lot of “poor little rich kid” Bruce Wayne showing off his expensive toys while glumly rasping about civil justice.

Kim Morgan has a great tribute to Jolie up on her Sunset Gun site, imagining how much better Jolie would have been in that role Anne Hathaway beat her out for in the People’s Choice Awards (RACHEL GETTING MARRIED):

It also occurred to me later that Hathaway’s self-absorbed, drug-addicted, younger-sister character in Rachel Getting Married (for which she is also nominated for an Oscar this year) was such a perfect Jolie role, it’s a shame she didn’t take Anne’s place. Jolie is such an expert at chewing up the scenery like a hungry lioness — think of her small part in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, in which the very sight of her wry smile, androgynous sexuality and eye patch caused star Gwyneth Paltrow to almost vanish into thin air — that to have seen her tripping around that wedding, crashing into trees, tearing into her mother, sexing it up in the basement, and hollering at the musicians to shut the hell up would have been a thing of rage-fueled, self-consumed beauty. And that toast. Think of how uncomfortable and yet, strangely turned on the wedding party would have been by this girl who spouts about re-hab (it’s all about her!) but might possibly burn the house down if you don’t fucking listen!

Right on baby! If there’s ever another Catwoman in the Batman franchise, there’s only one woman who can play it. The question is, will she? Will she stop pursuing the Oscar baited period martyr parts and big budget action walk-ons and start really messing up our minds, picking up where INTERRUPTED left off? Will she resume burning/widening the big blazing hole in the celluloid mirror? Or is there too much at stake now that she’s matriarch to a huge international goodwill cabal? Can’t she do both?

Yes. Yes she can… beyond the petty duality of Oscar’s “admiration” for prestige pictures and secret love of genuine hole-burning bad girl authenticity lies the plum… the Catwoman that will finally and forever defeat the caped crusader and destroy Gotham. The time has come for Angelina Jolie to stop saving the world and resume burning it, for keeps!

(read a similar rant from July 2008)