Letters to the Stars: Dear Brad Pitt…

Art & Culture

Dear Brad Pitt,

I think the time has come when you deserve to be taken seriously as a film actor, not just a film star. Despite the celebrity marriage, the films you are making are of sufficient quality for us to forget about the Hello years. 
It's hard to believe you'll be 50 next year. True, you no longer have those youthful good looks that stood you in good stead from Thelma & Louise onwards (a mere 20 years ago), by which time you'd already clocked up a lot of TV roles. And it was as Louise's stud muffin/conman that you first made an indelible impression, so you should thank Ridley Scott every day, because you've never looked back since then. You've always had a proclivity for the offbeat as well as the mainstream, but initially neither path offered very much that was worthwhile. You did pretty boy in Legends Of The Fall, A River Runs Through It and Meet Joe Black, while also appearing as Captain Fruitloop Grunge in Kalifornia, Twelve Monkeys and True Romance. At the time it seemed as though you couldn't decide if you wanted to be a movie star or a Cadbury's Gold Flake.
But two films gave you credibility: Seven and Fight Club. Both films combined the best of your qualities. You were tough and manly, but with a hint of vulnerability and humanity. And though neither were big hits, they were the kind of films that gave you street cred, because the people who liked them were young and their opinions counted for more than the popcorn audience. The 21st Century got off to a poor start with a series of stiffs. In Snatch, you succeeded in contriving the world's most impenetrable Irish accent, but neither that, nor the pairing with Julia Roberts in The Mexican, nor Spy Game did anything for anybody. Luckily Steven Soderbergh saved you from yourself.
Ocean's Eleven is not a great film (though better than its sequels), but it's a lot of fun, has a great cast, led by you and Clooney, and it recreated Brad as Tough and Cool. So although you were the world's least plausible Achilles in the world's worst classical movie (Troy), you had the confidence to tackle the most demanding role so far in the best film you've ever made. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford is an authentically brilliant film, full of beautiful cinematography but with a real emotional dynamo at its heart, embodied by you in the title role (as Jesse James, of course). Over the years, you've learned to still yourself, to let the silence do the talking and allow the camera to come to you. There's no need for grandstanding if the material is strong enough.
And then you went backwards again, with two dire films. Comedy is not your strong suit, not that of Clooney, at least not in the case of Burn After Reading, which advice should have been heeded when the first script came your way. Worse still is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a strange failure of judgement by David Fincher. It's a film that has its admirers, but they are relatively few and far between. Its capacity for longwinded whimsy and tedium is a sight to see.
And while The Tree Of Life is far from the masterpiece it is claimed to be, I have nothing but praise for your performance in the role of the father. You and Jessica Chastain work miracles together with very little in the way of dialogue, and I believed in your 50s father whose love is tough but enduring. Equally good is Moneyball, where you played real life baseball coach/manager Billy Bean whose unconventional practices were the subject of the book on which the film was based. I can't say I understand your enthusiasm for Tarantino. The appearance in Inglourious Basterds did nothing to impress me, and I could say the same for Terrence Malick, one of whose new films you're narrating. But I'm thrilled that you're in Steve McQueen's next movie, and I guess you've earned the right to indulge yourself when the mood takes you.
Comparisons are odious but I think we can safely say that you have got a lot more to show for your career so far then Johnny Depp who is roughly the same age. You have acquired a stature and gravitas that he has yet to achieve, and the capacity to be the still centre of a film, endlessly watchable by being, rather than doing. The output is patchy, but always worth looking forward to.

Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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