Angelina Jolie has always tried to use her celebrity to draw attention to humanitarian causes.
So, following her recent Channel 4 News interview alongside William Hague to discuss warzone sexual assaults in her capacity as a UN special envoy, all the headlines were naturally about when she's going to stop being in films.
And the answer is apparently quite soon. Upsettingly for fans of her work, and for fans of errant red carpet leg-juts, Jolie already has the finishing line in her sights. "I think I'm going to have to give up acting as the kids hit the teenage years because there is going to be too much to manage at home," she said. Given that her oldest son Maddox is now 11, that means Angelina's retirement could be as soon as two years away. If IMDb is right – which, admittedly, could well be a first – then her last role could well be as the Tigress in Kung Fu Panda 3.
Hopefully it won't play out exactly like that, though. Hopefully with a retirement as meticulously planned as this, Angelina Jolie will manage to bow out in a slightly less ignominious manner, with a film that manages to perfectly pull together all of her different acting skillsets. And that film will be incredibly hard to find, because for the last decade or so, Kung Fu Panda aside, she's ping-ponged schizophrenically between two very distinct types of fare.
The first of these, and probably the most financially successful, has been the slightly undercooked blockbuster. These are the films where Angelina, either desperate or unable to let go of Lara Croft, has been happy to grimace and growl and leap about with guns to the sort of bombastic dance music that angry teenage boys stopped listening to in the late 90s. In this category are Gone in 60 Seconds, Wanted, Salt and Mr and Mrs Smith – all mildly diverting films that appear to have been designed to be as instantly forgettable as possible.
The other string to Jolie's bow has been worthy Oscar-bait. She made a Clint Eastwood film, Changeling, back before Clint Eastwood started talking to chairs, when he could win an Oscar if he filmed a cat falling off a shelf. She starred in The Good Shepherd and A Mighty Heart, both so unremittingly serious and self-important that watching them all the way through technically constituted self-harm. And then there was her directoral debut In the Land of Blood and Honey, which once again substituted storytelling for jackhammer moralising.
Somewhere along the line, though, the middle fell out of Jolie's film choices. It's now either hopelessly dumb, borderline-direct-to-DVD action fluff or aggressively middlebrow issue cinema that alienates most mass audiences. There's nothing of the sparky character work Angelina used to excel at in Girl, Interrupted or Hackers or even, to a lesser extent, Pushing Tin. To be fair, Maleficent could move Jolie's career into an interesting new area, but it's a live-action fairytale movie that's coming out two years after everyone stopped liking live-action fairytales, so nobody should get their hopes up just yet.
If she really is going to retire in the next few years, Angelina Jolie will want to go out with a bang. She's one of the most famous movie stars in the world, and she'll want to remind us of what we're missing without her. If she can find the sweet spot between hollow entertainment and endless lecturing, she might just do it on a high.
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