Deconstructing Brad Pitt

By Sanyal, Devapriya | Journal of Film and Video, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Deconstructing Brad Pitt


Sanyal, Devapriya, Journal of Film and Video


DECONSTRUCTING BRAD PITT Ed. Christopher Schaberg and Robert Bennett. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, 296 pp.

Christopher Schaberg and Robert Bennett's edited collection Deconstructing Brad Pitt is an extremely remarkable volume and honest to the core. As claimed by Schaberg in the introduction, the book is indeed jargon-free, which makes it such a delightful read. The thirteen essays, plus a coda and a postscript, are short, to the point, and more importantly, extremely well written. The book also includes a visual essay on Pitt by Nancy A. Bernardo composed of images of the star and quotes by the founder of deconstruction theory, Jacques Derrida, which provides an alternative method of reading his image and films.

In the first essay, "Making Montana," Ben Leubner argues that Pitt's acting in Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It (1992) is what makes Pitt synonymous with Montana. It is almost as if they are interchangeable in the audience's eyes. And extra-textually, Leubner states, to many people's chagrin, especially a few of the locals of the state of Montana, Pitt's roles in the two films based on and in Montana-A River Runs Through It and Edward Zwick's The Legends of the Fall (1994)-bring unwelcome tourists who want to savor the "last best place on earth."

The second essay, "Romantic Hero" by Elizabeth Abele, is an academic delineation of the romantic hero and how the concept finds a place in Hollywood. It also examines how Pitt navigates the numerous roles of a romantic hero in several of his films. The author argues that Pitt plays them differently than both older and contemporary actors in Hollywood. She argues that Pitt's persona as a romantic hero has augmented his "physical attractiveness, making his sex appeal more than genetic good fortune . . . his characters' journeys consistently challenge the universe of his films as well as his audience's expectations . . . the films of Brad Pitt offer a subtle yet sustained critique of any fixed notion of masculinity" (33).

Two essays focus on Pitt's stardom. "Becoming Brad," by Bob Batchelor, explains the phenomenon that Brad Pitt has become not only in Hollywood but worldwide. In "A Star Is Born," Andrew Horton offers a firsthand account of "various behind the scenes insights into the early origins of Pitt's stardom" (179). It is a highly stimulating piece with a sense of nostalgia that endears one to both the essayist and Pitt (which I believe is the intention of the editors of this book). According to Horton, Brad Pitt the star was born with his first film, the direct-to-video release The Dark Side of the Sun (1988). The essay is a refreshing read that offers a close glimpse of not only the youthful Pitt but also his style and his worldview.

A sense of nostalgia can once again be noted in the essay "Brad Pitt for Mayor," the author of which, Thomas Bayer, started the "Brad Pitt for Mayor" (of New Orleans) grassroots movement in 2009 that gained momentum worldwide and was successful in making Pitt such a likable figure. …

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