I Hate Brangelina: An Appreciation
This morning I awoke to the patter of rain on my window and the throb of a celebrity gossip gene sparking to action in my head. For whatever reason, this usually only happens with power couples -- recent revelations about Taylor and Burton or Schwarzenegger and Shriver come to mind -- probably because the sincerity and profile of their love, however transitory or immodest, makes them emotionally relatable while trafficking in mystique that more civilian celeb couples just don't have. They are eminently accessible, yet entrancingly elusive. Shaking off sleep and wondering what world event might have prompted this early-morning psychic schism, I figured it could only be one thing.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie rocked Cannes. Again.
Indeed, a search of the photo record indicates the world's reigning supercouple (with apologies to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) did more than walk the red carpet at last night's Tree of Life premiere on the Croisette. They kind of played it. A rhythm section of paparazzi clicked away in thrall to the handsomest couple in Hollywood, laying the foundation for a chorus of fans, celebrants, even peers to whisper, yelp, shout and swoon. Pitt in his tux (albeit with the top button having gone AWOL) and Jolie in her chocolate brown Atelier Versace gown, this twin lightning strike of pulchritude and presence, waving, kissing, gesturing, mugging, grinning, owning. It was all so fucking glamorous. Co-stars Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain -- the latter looking lovely herself in Zac Posen, all canary yellow and cherry red -- never stood a chance.
It's enough to make one furious, almost. There's a bedrock of envy in which we base all our judgments of celebrities -- envy of their wealth, grace and style when we love them; envy of their resilience and unflappability when we despise them. The bottom line is that they cannot be gotten to, and that distance entitles us to feel and express either way without pressure of recognition. That's the way we like it, and it's why we shouldn't lament the weakening barrier to entry to becoming a public figure. Take Snooki, for example. She is not a celebrity. She and her Jersey Shore cohort are squatters in a glass house that some corporation will soon raze in favor of another squatter and another glass house. They are harder to care about at all than they are to hate, and after our initial wave of intrigue wears off, we discard them into obscurity. That's just economy.
But I viscerally hate that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie affect me the way they do -- not strictly out of envy (though that, too), but out of how moved I am by their upholding of power-couple tradition. I mean, come on! They are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie! What could be so captivating to an average adult male about a couple of zillionaire actors with a semi-adopted cosmopolis of kids (to say nothing of the nannies in tow) and an overearnest, globetrotting lifestyle? I resent them staring at and enticing me from the magazines in the grocery store checkout lane, as though it wasn't already beyond my means to spend the $3.99 cover price on a container of goddamn hummus.
That said, in an era when the mysterious relationship status of Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson is an actual going concern, or when such dissolute unions as Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens stir panic in the souls of glossy gossip rag publishers everywhere, legitimate Hollywood royalty is a rare and precious thing. And do I ever appreciate that: that they are present at Cannes, and they do dominate their environment, and they do understand their responsibility to Hollywood power-couple legacy. That they are effortlessly public when they need to be, and discreet and disciplined in their professional endeavors. That they care enough to not only play black-tie ball in a day and age when Ed Hardy is considered formalwear, but they play to win on the biggest stage on the planet.
In that sense, I love Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. It doesn't matter to me how their relationship began or how they micromanage the biosphere where it thrives. I simply enjoy looking at them and the imagination that ensues -- waking to a shadowless, slate-gray Tuesday morning in New York yet having some indication that an ocean away, somebody has invigorated a culture in such desperate need of stimulus. They do their jobs, and they make it look easy. Ultimately and most importantly, though, I get the sense that they mean it. And to the extent you think you do not care, don't take it for granted, either.
Read more of Moveline's coverage of Cannes 2011 here.
[Photo credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images]