Recently I was sitting in Prospect Park rereading Ovid’s Metamorphoses when a strong gust of wind blew a copy of a magazine called “US Weekly” into my hands. Despite myself, I opened it up out of curiosity, and before I could toss it away in disgust, I happened to read a few paragraphs of an article about the shocking lives of some American actors named “Brad Pitt” and “Angelina Jolie.”
Har har. Anyway, here is the first surprising excerpt:
Their love was on display at an October 27 West Hollywood dinner with their friend, “Half the Sky” coauthor Nicholas Kristof. “They’re attentive to each other. They listen, they’re respectful and sometimes finish each other’s sentences,” Kristof tells Us. “When we walked into the restaurant, Brad kept turning around to make sure that Angie was OK.”
A few paragraphs later, their friend is back:
“They’re both proud of their kids and clearly care a lot about them,” says Kristof. “Angie talks about how she and Brad juggle their schedules so somebody is always looking after them. She is incredibly attentive of how their careers will affect them”
And here’s the conclusion of the piece:
While [author Ian] Halperin says he feels he’s watching “a fairy tale in reverse,” Kristof predicts a happy ending: “They’re a great couple. They are both very down-to-earth and very funny. They like to just talk about their family. Every time I see them, they’re just very close.”
In fact, this Kristof character is the only new on-the-record source cited in the six-page piece, which is this week’s cover story. (Jolie’s dad, Jon Voight, is quoted in a sidebar.)
Now, I understand that Nick Kristof — New York Times op-ed columnist, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, champion of human rights in the developing world — has a book to promote. And though “friend” may be stretching it, he has appeared with Jolie at several events and panel discussions, so he at least qualifies as an acquaintance.
And Kristof has come to Jolie’s rescue in print before. About a year ago, the Daily Beast published an overwhelmingly positive piece on Jolie’s speech on Darfur at the Council on Foreign Relations. The piece was cheekily titled “She’s Actually Smart.” Kristof responded huffily — and at length — on his “On the Ground” blog, which is an extension of his column for the Times:
Well, of course she’s smart. I find the snarkiness condescending, a reflection of the general snobbiness in the humanitarian community about celebrities trying to do good work. The assumption is that if the tabloids have an interest in who someone might be sleeping with, that person is an airhead.
… Angelina Jolie has traveled and visited with refugees and desperate people all over, including three trips to the greater Darfur area, if I remember right. That’s two more trips than Condi Rice has made. … I once was on a panel where Angelina’s eyes filled up as she spoke of Iraqi refugees she had met in Syria; for anybody who was there, that scene was worth 100 of my columns. And ditto for her speech on Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Then there’s this, which Kristof posted to Facebook the day after his book party:
I don’t disagree! Let me be clear: Angelina Jolie is by all appearances a sincere and dedicated advocate for refugees and other needy people all over the world. I have no reason to believe she’s not actually smart. And it should go without saying that Kristof’s work in the Times is invaluable.
That said, aren’t these quotes for US Weekly a bit much? Let’s assume Kristof agreed to do a brief interview as a favor to Jolie and to promote his new book. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, even if that includes giving interviews to a magazine whose recent cover lines include “My Plastic Surgery Nightmare” and “Growing Up Suri.” I’m in no position to judge, having paid $4 for the thing myself.
But there’s something about the quote itself — the way he goes on about the way the couple finishes each other’s sentences, and how Brad kept turning around to check on Angelina — that smacks of those BS “body language expert” sidebars. He could have said something much drier, something like “They seem perfectly happy together” or “The dinner was lovely.” He could have just plain said less. The gushing play-by-play and the earnest predictions about the future of Brangelina don’t seem quite Timesian, or Pulitzerian, or, well, Kristofian.
That said, maybe the answer is just that he’ll talk to anyone?: