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Critics Seem Overly Harsh on Jolie’s Maleficent

Full disclosure: I have not yet seen Maleficent. But I plan to. And not a single negative review of the film is going to change my mind. Why? Because these reviews seem to miss the overall point. I only need to know two things.

1) is Jolie great as Maleficent? By all accounts, yes.
2) Is the film worth seeing just for Jolie? By all accounts, yes.

There are reviews on Angelina Jolie’s new film Maleficent that are worth reading. Check out Amy Nicholson’s piece in the LA Weekly, which examines the film from a refreshingly feminist angle. But too many of them, with a scant few exceptions, seem to miss the point completely. They are writing reviews, it seems, as though the movie was aimed at them. It wasn’t. Nowhere near. It’s aimed at young girls who are underrepresented in the tentpole nonsense that has overtaken American cinema. That a whole film was built around Jolie, that she is on every poster, that she is OPENING this movie – this is extremely rare in Hollywood and mark my words, she’s being tested.

Now, of course, in typical Hollywood fashion, they give the film over to a first time director, a risk they would never take with a female director. NEVER. EVER. EVER. How much worse could the film have gotten where critics are concerned if a woman was at the wheel of this thing?

Yes, the film was written by a woman then, it seems, kind of ruined by the male director behind the camera but does this mean the five white guys who run Hollywood are ever going to think, huh, that didn’t work out so well. Could that have been because it was directed by a man? Written by a woman, about a woman, starring an icon and yet, move over honey, let me drive.

So it is only adding insult to injury that Christopher Orr at the Atlantic would write this piece that seems to put the blame squarely on Angelina Jolie – she can’t save the film but worse, why are her movies getting worse? He writes:

What was Jolie’s last genuinely memorable role? The Tourist? Salt? Changeling? She sauntered through her effortless brand of sexual cool in Mr. & Mrs. Smith as well as in supporting roles in Wanted, Beowulf, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. And of course she voices a tiger in the Kung Fu Panda movies. For an indisputably A-list actress, it adds up to an awful lot of B-list roles. Indeed, unlike fellow cinematic icons such as her quasi-spouse Brad Pitt and his pal George Clooney, Jolie seems almost to have transcended her film career altogether. Acting often looks as though it’s an occasional sideline to her day job, the no doubt taxing business of being Angelina Jolie.

Maleficent was intended to remedy this, to reestablish Jolie center-stage, playing a villainess as iconic as herself. Alas, Disney’s subversive retelling of its own 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty is an utter mess. At once overblown and under-baked, the movie is a morally and tonally confused collection of sequences that never cohere into a compelling story.

You’d think that in Orr’s piece he would allude to what Jolie has REALLY been doing. He says she is “busy being Angelina Jolie,” which is, presumably, a snide allusion to her continual efforts for war refugees and her charity work around the world. But he also neglects to MENTION her not only already directing a film already but that she’s coming out with a big, important film this year. AS DIRECTOR OF THE FUCKING THING.

This is how Orr ends his piece:

So what’s next for Jolie? Kung Fu Panda 3 is due out next year. And Salt 2 (c’mon, guys, at least have the ironic sense to title it SALT II) is scheduled to follow sometime on its heels. Jolie will always be big. But, if anything, her pictures seem to be getting ever smaller.

That Orr wouldn’t even mention what is actually next for Jolie, where she is headed in her career — squarely in the director’s seat, my friends — is yet more proof that women simply do not carry any importance in the minds of many critics. If this article had been written about Clint Eastwood as an actor, let’s say, or even Ryan Gosling, or Ben Affleck – you think for one minute they would leave out their move to direct? Um.

At the end of the day, though, it is tantamount to spitting in the wind writing negative reviews of Maleficent that talk about how bad the movie is while Jolie is the main reason to see it. OF COURSE SHE IS! That was the whole point of making a movie called Maleficent – to see Jolie as that wonderful, iconic character.

Sure, there are a small amount of critics whose complaints are valid. And yeah, when you are a film critic you’re required to write an honest take a film. But come on, didn’t the point get missed two stops back? I think it did. Here’s to Maleficent breaking box office records (but yeah, now that critics have panned it who knows if it will) so that there will be more tentpoles built around a singular female character.

Beyond that, everything else is just sort of pointless because it is aimed at people who probably wouldn’t be seeing the film anyway. Should they still write their reviews? Sure. But do they have to sound like they’re talking about a car they just bought or a hotel room they just stayed in? Structural flaws?! Who cares! This is all about this part, this woman.

And to Miss Jolie, here’s a round of applause for all she’s accomplished, what she continually strives for and who she keeps redefining what a woman is capable of doing with just one life. Sure, we’re fascinated by her because she is so beautiful but she is doing anything but, as Orr describes, “being Angelina Jolie” and acting in increasingly bad films. Jolie has announced she and Brad Pitt will be making a movie together from a script she wrote. She is out there trying new things always – she is doing a lot more than fading out as Norma Desmond.