Honestly, we should have seen it coming. If their borderline scandalous coupling all those years ago wasn’t indication enough, the almost lascivious rumours that have been floating around for the last few months certainly should have been.
Even if you missed By the Sea (Angelina Jolie’s film about a disintegrating marriage that also starred Brad Pitt) which has suddenly transformed into a painful cry for help, and even if you suppressed the most sordid rumours (cheating, cocaine, mysterious real estate transactions) into the darkest corners of your mind, you should have seen this coming.
On Tuesday, Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from her husband of 2 years, partner of 11, Brad Pitt.
They were Brangelina, Hollywood’s Golden Couple, idealised, worshipped, two of the most recognisable faces on the planet. But to paraphrase one of Brad Pitt’s own films, Fight Club, they were not special. They were not beautiful and unique snowflakes. They were, as it sinks in, the same decaying organic matter as everything else.
There will no doubt be numerous ‘think pieces’ written on them in the days to come. Perhaps this is one of them, perhaps this is not. But if there is ever a reminder that nothing is sacred, even more than your own personal tragedy, it’s events like this. Somehow, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie aren’t allowed to do this. She’s supposed to be a UN Goodwill Ambassador, calling for an end to the Syrian war. He is supposed to be a father of six, an Oscar-winner. Only a few months ago, in November, she declared, “My job is to love him”.
But perhaps to find the truth, we should revisit the past. Both Pitt and Jolie have had rather... colourful lives. They were different back then.
He has been one half of three Golden Couples that commanded the attention of the world’s tabloids. It was Gwyneth Paltrow in the ‘90s and then, more famously, Jennifer Aniston.
And Jolie, of course, was hardly different. She was a notorious wild child; her weakness for drugs, living a fringe lifestyle, sadomasochism, borderline incest and carrying a vial of her lover’s blood is all well-documented.
But that was all in the past.
The official reason for their separation is the official reason for all celebrity separations: ‘Irreconcilable differences’. But Jolie’s lawyer added that the decision was made ‘for the health of the family’.
The family includes their six children. Three adopted (Maddox, Pax, Zahara) and three biological (the twins Max and Vivienne, and Shiloh). It is being said - all rumours of course - that it was Pitt’s parenting that finally destroyed them.
Jolie’s recent, shockingly sudden weight loss was alarming. But there she was, giving lectures all over the world, promoting peace and love. She pulled out of not one, but two passion projects: Cleopatra and the Agatha Christie adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express. But however ominous the signs, they were always rumours.
Just like the ones about Pitt cheating on her with his new co-star Marion Cotillard.
Even when gossip rags quoted sources with venomous bytes like: “The relationship has disintegrated into withering glances and stony silences. Brad feels that their almost two-year union is unsalvageable.” Or, “She’s overworked, overstressed, and emotionally overburdened. She’s headed for a complete physical and emotional breakdown.” Or perhaps this: “Brad has tried so hard to help her, but he’s exhausted by trying to care for someone who consistently refuses his help”. Signs, all of them, for what was to come. But it was all waved off, the bread and butter of click-hungry online vultures.
But perhaps the biggest clue came while watching By the Sea, Jolie’s third, and by far most personal film as director. There was an uncomfortable sense that you were eavesdropping into something very personal. The film, about an artistic couple attempting a last-ditch effort to save their disintegrating marriage, seems almost therapeutic now - as if Jolie, like her characters, was reaching out to the man she loves, one last time.
And Pitt, furious, passionate, was trying. With her. And they drove away into the sunset. Because that’s what happens in the movies.
And now, it’s over. Their six children, once blessed, will have to live with more burdens than they could ever have anticipated. Their careers, at least for the time being, will be secondary to their private lives.
The Golden Couple of Hollywood, like the hundreds before them, will leave a wake of heartbreak. Fans, like most friends after a horrible breakup, will take sides. There will be unplanned, uncomfortable meetings in the years to come, likely at some vapid Hollywood party. There will be custody battles, for however final this decision may seem, this fight is only just beginning.
But maybe things will turn around. They did for Megan Fox and her husband Brian Austin Green. And they did for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.
This is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie we’re talking about after all.
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