Angelina Jolie 4.0: Is anyone buying this?
ANGELINA Jolie, master media manipulator, is back.
A quick recap: After Jolie suddenly filed for divorce from Brad Pitt last September, leaks hit TMZ nearly every five minutes, and they seemed to come from one side only.
Pitt was a heavy drinker. He cheated on Jolie with a co-star and - one of the weirdest details ever - Russian hookers.
He used hard drugs. He had rage issues. He'd abused one of their six children on a private plane. While refuelling in the Midwest, an out-of-control Pitt hijacked a fuel truck.
These details were epic, fantastical, and largely disbelieved. In fact, the leaks only bolstered Pitt's standing in Hollywood, and in his first public appearance since the split, Pitt received a standing ovation at January's Golden Globes. Moonlight, a film he produced, won Best Picture at this year's Oscars.
In May, he sat for a confessional cover story with GQ Style, and as these things go, it was tonally smart: Pitt came off as humbled and apologetic.
He admitted he had a drinking problem. He spoke of wanting to be a better father and a better man. The only real misstep was a goofy accompanying video in which Pitt, dressed in $700 shirts, rolled around in sand dunes and cried at a campfire.
Now it's Jolie's turn, and she's chosen Vanity Fair's prestigious September Style issue for her rebranding. "This is a proper icon claiming her place in the firmament of Hollywood," said VF's Jessica Diehl.
Actually, the spread is more in line with super-producer Scott Rudin's assessment of Jolie as "camp event."
As an actress, it's been years since she was top choice for Oscar bait. Jolie's tried to establish herself as a director since 2011, yet each successive film - In the Land of Milk and Honey, Unbroken, By the Sea - has flopped harder than the last. In VF, she's ostensibly promoting her next project, a Netflix drama about the Cambodian genocide, but what she's really trying to sell is Angelina 4.0.
Jolie told the magazine she didn't want the house for its heritage or glamour - she just needed "a good place fast."
She hasn't unpacked. She hasn't had time to buy furniture - her friend, a set decorator, thoughtfully bought two sofas and some throw pillows for the living room, which her dog promptly soiled. No matter; she's cool.
"I didn't even know I needed throw pillows," Jolie said. "That was always Brad's thing." Jolie, instead, was off saving the world, but now she's balancing that with parenting alone.
She has to schedule doctor's appointments, playdates, meals ... All says the woman who, according to a 2011 Forbes article, spent $900,000 per year on nannies for each child and over $1 million on private tutors.
Apparently, Peretz didn't see any household help. She was, however, introduced to Jolie's children, something Jolie has rarely done. "I don't let a lot of reporters meet my children," she told VF in 2005, just as Pitt was leaving first wife Jennifer Aniston for her. "I don't trust the relationship."
Peretz meets Zahara, Vivienne, Shiloh and Knox, who asks Jolie for a waterslide. "How about a 'Hello, Mum'?" she says, her tone, Peretz writes, "like just about every other loving, exasperated mom in America."
"I've been trying for months to be really good at just being a homemaker and picking up dog poop," Jolie says. Nothing says that like posing next to fashion photographer in an astronaut suit on the Warner Bros. lot.
Since the split, Jolie tells the magazine she cries in the shower, so the kids won't see, because they need to believe everything will work out, even though she's not so sure - though they'll surely find out once they read this.
Trying to be the perfect single mom, Jolie says, gave her Bell's Palsy. "Sometimes women in families put themselves last," she says, before admitting that even though her teenagers would rather stay home and watch TV, she'll keep dragging them to hotspots and warzones around the world. Hey, it's what she needs.
Still, Angelina Jolie insists she's descended from Brangelina's epic heights. She's Earthbound now.
"As I go to sleep at night," she said, "I think, Did I do a great job as a mum, or was that an average day?"
Here's another question: Is anyone really buying this? Jolie spent so many years in the Brangelina bubble that she's totally out of step with the culture.
We've all seen behind the curtain. We're familiar with enough celebrity apparatus to recognise staged paparazzi photos and fake scandals. We watch scripted reality TV. We broadcast airbrushed versions of our lives on social media. On the internet, anyone can be a star.
Yet Jolie seems to believe we're still in the Old Hollywood era. It's reflected in her photo spread; she looks like a supporting player in Ryan Murphy's Feud, not a modern celebrity. She's become Norma Desmond, a movie star who still thinks she's backed by a studio system, packaging a tidy narrative in a glossy magazine that she's convinced the public will believe.
Nice close-ups, though.
This story originally appeared on the New York Post and is republished here with permission.