Newest in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order. To see other posts in the series, click here. As always, potential Spoiler Alert.
This movie is the reason I bought the Angelina Jolie Collection in the first place. Ron was away for a good chunk of the year it came out, in another province crashing on a cot in the basement of a relative of a friend, so we were running up a lot of huge phone bills and he was going to a lot of movies. Mr. and Mrs. Smith was one of those movies, which he suggested I go see during one of our marathon phone calls. Since we both enjoyed it, when it came out on video, we picked it up so we could watch it together.
It’s grown into one of my favourites over the years. At first, it was for fairly superficial reasons. For example, I like fun, mindless action, and this movie’s got some great shooty-uppy sequences. It’s also funny, something that I find most comedies aren’t. And I’m not gonna deny, there is the eye-candy quotient.
But the more I watch it, the more impressed I am by how Mr. and Mrs. Smith subverts the tropes of one of the genres it’s often categorized as: the rom-com.
The premise of the film is that Jane (Jolie), and John (Brad Pitt), are assassins who manage to meet, fall in love, and get married without learning each other’s true professions. Jane poses as an IT consultant, and John poses as a contractor, and they both pose as suburbanites who don’t actually hate their lives. But they clearly both chafe at the restrictions their covers impose on them.
They’re both shown trying to fulfill the traditional roles they’ve taken on – Jane cooking dinner every night, and John pushing a lawn mower across the yard – failing miserably at them, and seeming somewhat flustered in the process. In juxtaposition to that, there’s a sequence in which each carries out an assassination, and they’re both cool, competent, and deadly – as well as clearly enjoying what they do.
Oh, and on a side note, speaking of not being comfortable in traditional roles, I’m not sure I’ve ever identified more with a movie character than when one of Jane’s neighbours thrusts a baby in her hands and she reacts like this:
Eventually, their respective employers realize Jane and John are sleeping with the enemy, so to speak, and they join forces in an attempt to eliminate the problem. Things escalate as Jane and John put together the pieces of what’s happened, culminating in a wonderful, house-destroying fight between the two.
It’s fantastic for multiple reasons. First, most superficially, it’s a fun action sequence. But when you take a deeper look at it, it’s essentially an externalization of Jane and John’s inner turmoil. By the end of the scene, the house that represents everything they hate about their lives is mostly destroyed, and they’re interacting with each other in the same passionate and engaged way they did when they first met (hiding from authorities in Bogotá after, it’s implied, one of them has carried out an assassination.)
Plus, I love how the movie doesn’t shy away from making a physical fight between and man and a woman one on equal footing. They are both professionals, after all, so when they discard their guns and resort to fists, it only makes sense that Jane would hold her own against a male opponent, and John would hold nothing back against a female one.
The underlying message of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a surprisingly thoughtful one. In the end Jane and John survive as a couple, not because, in traditional rom-com fashion, the female character subsumes herself and her skills and dreams and goals to those of the male character. Instead, they’re honest with each other and true to themselves, and when the dust settles, their relationship is the better for it.