Angelina Jolie is on everybody's list: Hollywood's most beautiful, woman I'd go gay for, and hey, she's won an Oscar, too. But don't let those accomplishments distract you from her real allure; despite being none of those things that are sold as are most desirable of all (blonde, willowy and biddable), Angelina has ascended to her place in Hollywood royalty by offering another vision of femininity—challenging, unconventional, and provocative. And of course, as her latest bad-ass assassin turn in action thriller Wanted
illustrates, she always remains sexy while doing so.
Critically-acclaimed film roles be damned, from the early, edgy, "We fucked in the limo" exploits to her current sensual earth goddess demeanor, public fascination has always been more about Angelina's sexuality than her acting technique. We've been privy to details over the years, whether it was her old Sapphic tryst or the Billy-Bob marriage and their blood vials; and even now, blooming in late pregnancy, her recent cover interviews can't help but edge her back towards the bedroom for breathless descriptions of the sexiness of her swollen state.
Angelina owns her sexual self with an un-apologetic ferocity rarely matched by other women in the public eye. In an era where female celebrities are boxed by the tabloid press into narrow classes of "desperate singleton," "miserable slut," or "happy housewife," Angelina has defied classification—even when she's been on the edge of the "other woman/homewrecker" box—and it fascinates us. She may be a mother, but with her international brood and globe-trotting, she is far from traditional or stay-at-home. She may do the same artfully-draped photo-shoots as other stars, but her photos always retain a self-possession which leave her anything but objectified.
While other actors have earned their way up from "actor" to Movie Star by virtue of their box office draw and stunning performances, Angelina has ascended for a different reason.
She may be an excellent actress – evidenced by her raw, Oscar-winning turn in Girl, Interrupted
and the restrained anguish she
showed as Marianne Pearl in A Mighty Heart
– but her body of work remains varied and unconventional for a female lead. Save her "violence as foreplay" adventures in Mr. and Mrs. Smith
, and her early ingénue days, of course (remember her as a lovelorn club kid in Playing By Heart
who couldn't get the guy
?), she scorns mainstream romance. With big-budget flops like Alexander
littering her back-catalogue, you would expect her value to be precarious; certainly she is nowhere near as consistently bankable in box office terms as females like Cameron Diaz or Reese Witherspoon. She exchanges action film leather getups for challenging emotional melodrama and peppers her body of work with unexpected and often-bemusing roles like Gone In 60 Seconds
or Kung Fu Panda
But box office has had little impact on Angelina's lustre. What makes Angelina valuable to Hollywood is a combination of her real-world self and her image as a Movie Star, and half-a-dozen more Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrows
wouldn't dim that light—the beguiling mix of raw power and mother-figure Angelina has come to encompass.
This calm charisma is shown to full effect in Wanted
—a breathlessly visceral assassin movie that matches James
McAvoy's little-boy-lost with Angelina's all-knowing mentor. Jolie has admitted in interviews that she edited her character's lines by cutting much of her dialogue. Angelina commands the screen, and we feel her presence not through words, but the flicker of an eyebrow and the softening of her eyes. The character, like the actress herself, is refreshingly unrepentant, offering justification but no apology or regret for the dubious moral nature of her actions, and all with a swagger sadly now seen only in the most masculine of leading men.
Whether dripping with blood, beating the crap out of an unworthy opponent or weeping over a kidnapped child (as in the Clint Eastwood directed, future end-of-year-release Oscar-bait The Changeling
), Angelina reminds us that being a powerful, sexy woman is not an either/or proposition; an obvious statement, yes, but tell that to Hollywood.
Wanted opens Friday, June 27th.