Just so you know: Mr. and Mrs. Smith really is stone-cold shite. I can understand the compulsion to see it if only to gauge firsthand whether or not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were truly making it. (Answer: Does a scientologist proselytize on a subway?) But be forewarned: When the film ended, I wanted my two hours back. I could have used them to, like, clean my cupboards or something.
The film, about two married assassins unaware of each other’s identity, buckles under the weight of:
A. Angelina Jolie’s acting. It’s not like Pitt didn’t stink up the joint — he barely dipped into his bag of tics to shuffle through this little conceit — but he comes off as Olivier next to her mannequantics. She really did deserve the Oscar for her performance in Girl, Interrupted, but it may be that she was merely mining her true personality structure. Since then, she’s admittedly chosen shoddy vehicles, but she has been shoddy in them; it’s hard to tell where her Lara Croft ends and the Craft action figure begins. (They’re both very waxy.) With her pneumatic features and impossibly long, tapered limbs, Jolie is always easy on the eyes in a way that invites the projection of all kinds of wisdom and wryness upon her. But since I don’t actively want to fuck her (critics who do vascillate between punishing her for it and grossly overlooking her limitations), I can’t help but observe how woodenly she preens for the camera. I challenge Jolie to hold a weapon without lowering her lids and pimping out her lips. And she is supposed to be Hollywood’s stock temptress these days — possibly because her breasts seem real. What dire, Dairy Queen days these are.
B. An interfering soundtrack. To the point where the movie would suddenly stop in its tracks and convert for the duration of a song into a music video. I am more stringent on this point than some, but I don’t think a film should ever take its cues from its music; it’s an awful cheat for conveying information or an emotional development. In Smith, I could close my eyes and known exactly when the fighting stopped and the lovin’ began. It was easier, actually; when I can see it, the flexing of Jolie’s lips educes a dying fish rather than a woman in love.
C. A too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen script, which, as usual, robbed the film of any coherence. For example, why does it matter so much that two assassins live under one roof? And does it really matter so much that an entire army of assassins would be sent out to kill them? And where do the two place on the assassin food chain? Why don’t they experience any fallout from being assassins? Who contracts them? And why if they are so smart do they never figure out each other’s identity, especially since they’re in the same field? Did the script-writing sessions take place in the kind of sweaty sensory deprivation tanks that Michael Jackson’s jurors must currently be beating their heads against? The script would have benefited from either better developed gags or higher stakes. (With The Bourne Identity and Swingers under his belt, director Douglas Liman certainly has both a better action movie and comedy in him.) It would have benefited, in other words, from a committment rather than a story-by-consensus. As it was, what should have been the climatic ending just about dribbled to a stop.
The best thing about this film is the Smiths’ kitchen, all steel and marble and (naturally) very good knives. Maybe the Iron Chef would have spiced things up. We would have needed Vincent Vaughn moonlighting as a homicidal momma’s boy to make it worse. Doh.