With the release of Angelina Jolie’s next directional endeavor, By the Sea, she enlists the help of husband Brad Pitt. Unfortunately for all their efforts, her film debuted to horrendous reviews — here’s our take. The wildly successful couple have worked in the movie industry for the past 25 years and their careers, naturally, have often been compared. So before seeing the movie, we take a look back at the successes and failures of their careers.
The Oklahoma-born superstar received his big break in Thelma & Louise in 1991 as J.D., a small-time criminal. Catapulting him into the limelight, he instantly became a widely known sex symbol despite only a few minutes of screen time. And it’s not hard to see why — his boy-like charm and angelic good looks made him irresistible.
The rest of his early 90s were filled with popular blockbusters like Legends of the Fall, Interview With the Vampire and Se7en. Although his acting efforts in Legends of the Fall and Se7en at times seemed a little one-dimensional, Pitt was genuinely affecting as a grieving vampire lamenting over his loss of humanity in Interview With the Vampire. This performance revealed new depths to Pitt’s acting abilities, revealing that he was more than just a pretty face.
In 1995, Brad Pitt was nominated for his first Academy Award for his role in 12 Monkeys. An engrossing and captivating performance, Pitt starred as a mental patient in Terry Gilliam’s thriller. Although he lost the Oscar, he won the Golden Globe, and 12 Monkeys solidified Pitt’s place in Hollywood as a serious and reputable actor. This change in perception and new awards consideration may have resulted from his foray into method acting, since Pitt apparently spent time in a mental hospital to prepare for the role and to hone his maniacal “ticks.”
The rest of the 90s was unfortunately characterized by relatively poor film choices, including Seven Years in Tibet and Meet Joe Black. However, the one standout is Pitt’s turn as Tyler Durden in David Fincher’s Fight Club. Perhaps his most recognizable role, Fight Club did not commercially perform well during its release in 1999, mostly due to a number of delays caused by confused marketing tactics and and perhaps the aftereffects of Columbine. However, it soon became a cult film years later, and Pitt’s epic speeches against consumerism and modern America are still repeated today.
The 2000s saw Brad Pitt joining George Clooney in the successful franchise remake of Ocean’s Eleven. Although his performance was unremarkable, the films became one of the many blockbusters Pitt starred in throughout the decade. Other films that could be included during this period were Troy and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which did not do well critically but I personally thought were underrated. During the late 2000s, Pitt returned to form with some great acting performances in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Burn After Reading and Inglourious Basterds. The latter two showcased that Pitt could excel in comedic roles just as well, although it was his performance The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that was nominated for an Academy Award.
In 2014, Brad Pitt finally received an Oscar, though in the acting category but in the producing one. He received rave reviews for his film 12 Years a Slave along with writer-director Steve McQueen. Although his brief cameo as a Canadian abolitionist was superfluous and unnecessary, the film would not have succeeded without Pitt’s influence (and helpful heaps of money).
Although she had a rather undistinguished early career, Angelina Jolie came into the spotlight with the 1998 HBO film Gia. Portraying the brief life of model Gia Marie Carangi, she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for Emmy for her performance. Her next film, Girl, Interrupted quickly launched her into Hollywood stardom as she received numerous awards, including an Academy Award for her turn as a mental patient. The film was supposed to reignite Winona Ryder’s career, but skyrocketed Jolie’s career instead. An intense, career-making performance, Jolie’s turn as a charismatic sociopath instantly made her a pop culture icon, and is still her best role to date.
Similar to her husband, Jolie starred in a successful franchise based on the popular video game: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Donning a British accent, Jolie established herself as a major player in Hollywood that can rein in a successful box office. Relying more on her looks than her acting chops, the franchise did not do well critically but succeed commercially. This endeavor was repeated when she met Brad Pitt in 2005 for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Although the movie is more well-known for breaking up Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, it was nevertheless an enjoyable action flick featuring great chemistry between the two stars.
Jolie continued her career as an action star in films like The Tourist, Wanted and Salt. Although commercially successful, none of these films did well critically (although I thought Salt was a decent film, filled with good action and an interesting plot). Afterwards, Jolie took a break from her action roles to show off her dramatic and comedic acting in Changeling and the first and second Kung Fu Panda, and was nominated for an Academy Award for the former.
In the 2010s, Jolie took a break from acting to start her career as a director. Her two first features, In the Land of Blood and Honey and Unbroken were well-received despite the bad reviews that are stemming from By the Sea. It has yet to be determined whether or not Jolie will succeed as a director. Her final notable mention is Jolie’s performance as the titular character in Maleficent. Similar in style and praise to Snow White and the Huntsman, Jolie received praise for her performance, as well as the special effects and production, but did not receive great critical reviews.
PITT VS. JOLIE
Both are instantly recognizable names and faces in Hollywood, and are perhaps considered the most popular A-list celebrities. Jolie’s career is now shifting towards the directing field, while Pitt it set to continue acting and producing in the near future. Their continually fruitful careers has helped to cement their status as a power couple in Hollywood (fondly dubbed Brangelina). Their social activism and large adopted family has kept them in the spotlight over the past ten years, as well as their different but iconic roles.
However, in terms of sheer talent, Pitt undeniably rises above Jolie. Although he does not hold an Academy Award for acting, Pitt’s careers is littered with great and distinguished performances. Jolie has had some varied roles, but she has been mostly typecast as an over-sexualized action star. This may be a result of the inherent sexism within Hollywood, but I believe that Pitt has grown more as an actor over the years through a range of diverse performances.
I look forward to seeing the rest of their careers.