What do you do with a movie star, a stellar budget, and a cataclysmic divorce? Conduct a tell-all interview with said star in topographically diverse environments with him clad in very expensive couture, of course! GQ has published a veritable celebrity Gesamtkunstwerk out of the breakdown of Brad Pitt’s glamorous marriage by whisking him from white sandy dunes to the everglades for a montage of melancholic moments.
This “fashiotainment” photo shoot, as The Guardian so aptly describes it, sets a new standard for the over-sharing Hollywood profile of a celebrity’s personal failures. Standing in a prayerful pose on the edge of the Florida everglades, an open shirt ($485) flapping in the wind across his muscular tattooed chest as the sun sets, Pitt pushes the limits of the public’s taste for self-indulgent celebrity posturing.
More than ten years ago, when Mr. Pitt and Angelina Jolie met and fell in love while making Mr. and Mrs. Smith (while Pitt was still married to Friends star Jennifer Aniston), the world didn’t view him with much sympathy, either. But ten years and many children later, the couple wed, and the public seemed happy to catch glimpses of their globe-trotting family life. And yet, perhaps it was the fact that in this case, first comes love, then comes the wreckage of Pitt’s marriage, followed by ten years and then a few baby carriages—all before Pitt and Jolie’s official marriage—that eventually doomed the relationship to failure.
In the interview, Brad Pitt is despondent: “I get up every morning and I make a fire. When I go to bed, I make a fire, just because—it makes me feel life. I just feel life in this house,” he says. It’s almost surreal how a man can go from having a life and a home filled with children to nothing. Alone, in a house, with a fire.
A man from Missouri, once married to America’s sweetheart, trades her in for America’s femme fatale and six children, ending up alone on a white sand dune wearing a $3,395 sports jacket? Is this the American dream? Given our freedom to marry and divorce as we please in modern society—virtually stigma-free—why is a man who seemingly had it all—beauty, money, fame, fortune, family, a winery, a chateau, and children—now seem so sad and so utterly alone?
And yet, Pitt claims to have learned from his most recent romantic failure. “Any of my foibles are born from my own hubris,” Pitt told GQ. “Always, always. Anytime. I famously step in shit—at least for me it seems pretty epic. I often wind up with a smelly foot in my mouth. I often say the wrong thing, often in the wrong place and time. Often.” And when you’re famous, getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time while under intense scrutiny can lead to getting served perhaps the worst of hands—losing your family.
Pitt says he has given up drinking, perhaps because it led to one too many of these confessed “foibles.” “I enjoy wine very, very much, but I just ran it to the ground.” This honest admission is striking and a welcome departure from the controlled images most A-list celebrities maintain. And much of Pitt’s mea culpa seems heartfelt: “The terrible thing is I tend to run things into the ground. That’s why I’ve got to make something so calamitous. I’ve got to run it off a cliff…. I do it with everything, yeah. I exhaust it, and then I walk away.”
Is there a moral to Pitt’s tale? If there is, perhaps it’s that the extreme pursuit of the American Dream, particularly the Hollywood version, comes at a price. Lest we forget, there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and that includes, in particular, romantic excess. Even a chateau filled with wine and children cannot reverse the damage of a relationship doomed from the start. As many people have observed, relationships often end as they begin. And when one relationship begins by destroying another, it’s not a surprise to see it end eventually as well. It’s possible to muster sympathy for Pitt (as well as Jolie and their children), but it’s difficult to find theirs a surprise ending.