"Mr. and Mrs. Smith" marks a surprisingly successful return to the top of the box office for its gossip riddled stars, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Of course, by now, the rumors of the "relationship" between Jolie and Pitt have taken a backseat to the onscreen chemistry and success of the film. Regardless of the truth, it's hard to deny that there's a palpable screen chemistry that entertains and excites between Pitt and Jolie.
In this film, they play a suburban husband and wife 5-6 years into their marriage...a marriage that is obviously troubled as they both go through the motions while hiding their secret lives as professional assassins.
There's much to like about this film, and my B- is a tad deceptive. I enjoyed it a bit more than a B- would indicate, but found myself bothered a touch by technical issues and one serious moral dilemma that immediately took the film out of an "A" range for me. First, however, the performances.
As previously stated, Jolie and Pitt have a wonderful chemistry together and seem to naturally play off each other's banter. Their witty one-liners felt natural and their glances and gestures were well-timed and placed. This is an ideal role for Pitt, allowing him to use his puppy dog face to full advantage...and allowing for one of his true gifts...it's the ability to appear sarcastic and sincere almost simultaneously. It's an almost vital skill to have in this role...too detached or cold and it would have been impossible to care about this character. On othe other hand, too sympathetic and he couldn't have been believable as an assassin. Pitt achieved a nice balance that actually made him appear to be the more human of these two. I loved the approach of having Jolie's character, in some ways, be the stronger, more skilled and more organized assassin.
This is undoubtedly one of my favorite of Jolie's performances. For all the "bad girl" stuff we get from Jolie...she does enough positive in her life that we know there's another side...a deeply human, authentically feeling woman. This role allows us a glimpse into that by creating a character who is powerful, in control and, yet, almost frightened of her humanity.
There are a couple supporting roles worth mentioning, mostly yet another wonderful supporting performance by Vince Vaughn. Vaughn, who seems to be falling into the Ben Stiller Syndrome of appearing in every film humanly possible, nonetheless makes the most in the role of Pitt's best friend and fellow assassin. It's the same type of performance he always does, but he always does it well. On the other hand, Adam Brody is a fairly weak caricature in a supporting role that is way underdeveloped, however, that same underdevelopment doesn't hurt Kerry Washington nearly as much in the role of Jolie's best friend.
Doug Liman, who previously directed Go, Bourne Identity and Swingers, offers a nicely paced film that capitalizes on the strengths of his actors. It's a nice balance of action, comedy, romance and a touch of drama. I was troubled, on occasion, by lighting issues in the film. First, action sequences in the house were often quite dark and difficult to follow AND there were occasional lighting flickers that seemed odd during one of the closing scenes. It wasn't the appearance of a "light," but actual fluctuations in the levels of lighting. Production design was generally functional, however, the obvious attempts to sexualize Jolie got a bit old. Finally, the soundtrack felt a bit intrusive at times...but, generally, enhanced the action of the film.
The film is rated PG-13 in an effort to attract the teen crowd that would be attracted to both Jolie and Pitt. Reportedly, a steamy sex scene between Pitt and Jolie was cut in order to achieve the PG-13. This leads to my moral dilemma for the film. Had this film actually maintained an "R", I'd have likely given it at least a "B" rating. It would have been clearly targeted towards an adult crowd and I could have forgiven some of the mixed messages. However, even in a film where the characters are assassins I find myself bothered by the reckless attitudes and flaunting of marital violence. Perhaps I have simply been involved in the area of family violence too long, however, the prolonged scenes (especially the actual physical fighting) of violence in the house between Jolie and Pitt felt excessive, gratuitous and not appropriate for a PG-13 film.
I can't deny that my challenges with the mixed messages about marital violence impacted my enjoyment of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." I also can't deny that I still enjoyed the film. Anchored by strong performances from Jolie and Pitt and a script ripe with wittiness the film is both entertaining and filled with action. It's consistently funny, often charming and occasionally insightful.