Angelina – An Unauthorized Biography, by Andrew Morton
What can I do in reviewing this book except give you my overriding impressions?
The first one is about the subject matter as Andrew Morton likes to portray her. Under his hands, Jolie comes out of this book as a nasty, mercurial, capricious, selfish, unfaithful manstealing drug addict who continually lies and presents the truth to suit her own needs.
It’s not a flattering portrait by any means. Manipulative, destructive and shallow, Morton presents us with a picture of a woman driven by a series of addictions and compulsions. She is a whirlwind of sexuality and deceit who is quite happy to walk into stable relationships and wreck them to serve her own ends. Even her later work with the UN is portrayed as in some way capricious and self-serving, and even her treatment of the kids she adopts is according to Morton at best worthy of suspicion and at worst actually illegal.
Unlike Jolie, this book is not pretty. There is something mean of spirit in Morton, and it comes through in the overall impression her gives of Jolie, rather than the facts of her life taken individually.
The cause for Jolie’s unstable personality as it is here presented leads me to the second observation about the book. Morton is just as happy to point to the fact that Jolie is a Gemini to account for her character traits as he is to fill the pages with whacky post-Freudian psychobabble to describe her motives. The book is much better when Morton is not theorising on the deep unconscious reasons for Jolie’s behaviour and actually tells you about her behaviour. I don’t expect to be told about her personality on the basis of her star sign or spurious psychology just as I wouldn’t expect to be told that the lumps on her head are evidence that she was more amorous than other women, or that the full moon turns her into a werewolf. That, Mr Morton, is space-filling – and piss-poor writing.
That said, this book does give an account of Jolie’s life which – with its emphasis on destructive sex and drug abuse is like watching a slow motion car crash. She cuts herself as a kid, her mother gives up her bed to Jolie and her boyfriend when the couple are just 14, Jolie nearly stabs him to death and he does the same for her at the same age and both go to hospital… And so the sad show goes on. The young Jolie takes copious drugs and screws anything that is slightly warm and still breathing, and appears perfectly happy to wreck relationships and treat the people around her like disposable syringes. Essentially, she is portrayed as a fickle, feckless “user” – in all its connotations.
It’s not nice reading, but I suspect it is in part accurate – though it skims over Jolie’s acting skills and attempts pat “psychological” interpretations of her life as seen from the outside rather than giving a genuine insight into the woman herself. In Morton’s telling, the life she leads becomes so debauched and so dissolute that even she can’t handle it any more – the night she shares an apartment with her lover, ex-husband, lesbian ex-lover and her girlfriend and has a breakdown is pricelessly funny in the deadpan way it is delivered by Morton. I don’t think he was meant to be funny, but one can have little sympathy for a two dimensional character who has been set up by the author as willing to make a mess of her life apparently on purpose.
The character of Jolie is remarkable in this book simply because she weathers it all. She’s portrayed as a kind of adult role-play Lara Croft who raids married men’s beds rather than ancient tombs and comes out completely unscathed.
Where others would go to pieces, she simply goes for the next fix, which is either a tumble in the hay with someone else’s husband or a shot in the arm to keep her going. Unafraid to wreck the happiness of others to supply her own obsessions and compulsions, I found that I at once hated this version of Jolie and begrudgingly admired her for her apparent armour-plating and psychotic self-serving.
Her treatment of her father Jon Voight throughout is awful. Morton implies that Jolie wants to blame him for all her woes rather than address them, mature and grow up. This, could be true, I suppose, it could be the extreme life that the extremely wealthy lead, or it could be a gross caricature. If it really does lift the lid on what is beneath the surface beauty of Hollywood, and of Jolie, then it made me glad of my rather boring life.
To be frank, I felt grubby reading about Morton’s Jolie and her shenanigans.
Some things are better left unsaid. And some books unwritten. This is one of them.