As if she didn’t have enough cameras flashing on her, I’ve decided to shed even more light on the career, not private life, of one of America’s biggest obsessions. As one-half of a Hollywood power couple, Angelina Jolie’s screen presence often takes the backseat to her personal life. Like her husband, her career is full of impressive roles. As I mentioned in my Salt review, Ms. Jolie seems to have two types of screen performances she excels at. There is the emotionally charged Oscar contender, and the kick-ass action heroine. While acclaim is shoveled upon her for the former, the latter brings home the bacon. Jolie, like Meryl Streep, is an undeniable box office draw for the female market. The number one success of a movie like Wanted will never be attributed to James McAvoy. As Jolie’s career continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how she manipulates her public image and directs it towards a cause, or to making people feel something for that character on the page. Here are her current five best performances.
The role that landed her an Oscar and launched her career is also a scathing, emotionally-drenched portrayal. As institutionalized Lisa Rowe, Jolie captures something raw about this country’s youth that few actresses can. Her ingenuity is met only by her madness, and it’s gripping to say the least. Whether she be spouting sexual innuendos while on a field trip to an ice cream parlor or manipulating patients into suicide, Jolie never loses sight of her character’s tragic undercurrent. It’s amazing to behold.
A Mighty Heart
In this true-life account of the wife of kidnapped/murdered journalist Danny Pearl, Jolie was snubbed of an Oscar that she had a chance at winning. She captures the heart of the title with no-bull honesty and integrity. The script refuses to sentimentalize and go to melodrama, and so does she. Marianne Pearl is a woman bent on the truth, no matter how horrific. When she learns of her husband’s decapitation, we enter a big screen meltdown that is an acting lesson of the highest order.
Proof that Jolie could not only carry a movie, but also not shed endless tears to score a memorable performance. As Fox (yes, I know) she portrays the very definition of silent but deadly. Jolie rightfully fought to have most of her character’s lines removed post-production. She knew what she was doing. The sudden appearance and subsequent shootouts in the film didn’t need her mincing bad one-liners with the other dimwits.
2008 was a pinnacle of Jolie’s career. She had Wanted, showcasing her ass-kicking box office appeal, and this Oscar-nominated tearjerker from Clint Eastwood (who also had a milestone year in ’08). As Christine Collins, she plays another true-life woman fighting for her lost loved one. When her son is kidnapped and the police return the wrong boy. Collins goes through a maddening journey through the corrupt police establishment, the mad house, and the court system to find the truth. Though she never finds out definitively, you’re willing to follow the character through the tumultuous and unrelenting circumstances because of the strength of this performance.
Though my opinion of the movie isn’t very favorable, this is no doubt Jolie proving she has the power to carry a movie in a lead role. As over-the-top bad ass Evelyn Salt, Jolie wields black hair and a flamethrower made out of a desk chair and cleaning chemicals to great effect. Will it be remembered as one of her greatest 40 years from now? I hope not, but it’s certainly important in understanding the evolution of a career-in-the-making, one that I see evolving much more in the years to come.