It was the moment we had all been waiting for. The “bump into” between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston at the SAG Awards. Rumours of a possible meeting had been building since they both scored Golden Globe nominations, him for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and her for Morning Wars.
If they did see each other, there was concern. Would it be some sort of Back to the Future 2 situation? Would the space time continuum combust?
But we needn’t have worried. The gods, or their agents or the SAG producers – or perhaps all three - delivered. The “bump into” was slightly awkward, maybe, but sweet. There was no bitterness, no residual anger. It was … nice. Is this why the reunion stopped the world?
Is it because these two, more than Winona and Johnny, were Generation X’s prom king and queen? They were more well-known; more popular and literally golden, (still are). They were our Camelot – when Camelot consisted of Grunge rock, over-sized cargo pants and Prozac.
Generation X are the first generation to experience divorce on a mass scale as children as the divorce rate skyrocketed in the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps that is why, though they’ve been divorced for 15 years – longer than they were married – we want to see them together in some way again.
We know Brad in particular was happy for Jen because we have footage of him backstage watching her give her acceptance speech. That acceptance speech was, in essence, a symbolic act of closure. It was vague, sure, but it was, in parts, a very pointed message.
While thanking the writer of Morning Wars, she said “Boy did we really get to dive deep into our own experiences, our own history and really be able to breathe life into these extraordinary characters.
“I mean, who knew that emotional breakdowns felt that good? It was literally like seven months of therapy, which covered twenty years …”
Twenty years ago, Jen married Brad, in July 2000. In Morning Wars Jen’s character has to deal with the humiliation of having her closest partner, her “work husband” Steve Carell, the golden boy of TV, exposed as a cheater, and possible abuser. On top of this, she goes through her own public divorce and is blamed for it. For those who haven’t seen it, Jen spends a lot of time yelling, crying and even screaming “HOW could you do this?”
The parallels are obvious.
While she was filming, Jen celebrated her 50th birthday. One she invited Brad to. It’s easy to read this as Zen Jen – who has practiced yoga and transcendental meditation for most of her adult life - being the initiator. She also invited her other ex-husband, Justin Theroux, to her Thanksgiving celebration last year. Perhaps she really is that Zen.
Anyone who has suffered the deep psychic pain of a breakup, lived with and through addiction and come out on the other side, would see it as something else.
Brad has not been shy about his struggle with addiction, and his recovery, admitting in interviews that he drank heavily during his marriage to Angelina Jolie, and was “stoned” during his marriage to Aniston. Last week at the National Board of Review Awards, Brad paid tribute to Bradley Cooper for helping him get sober. Part of living a committed sober lifestyle means making lots of apologies. Not just Step Nine amends, but open, humble apologies whenever necessary so you don’t slip back into resentment – the fuel of addiction.
What does it mean, then, when our Prom King and Queen are reunited backstage? A cynical person might say it’s all part of Brad’s quest for Oscar, which he is almost certain to get on February 10. But anyone who has suffered the deep psychic pain of a breakup, lived with and through addiction and come out on the other side, would see it as something else.
A 50 year-old woman and her 56 year-old ex-husband have managed to move past the past. They are no longer the people they were. They have, as every Los Angeles plant-based eater might say, “experienced growth”. So perhaps we weren’t seeing Jen and Brad reunite. But rather, two totally different people who are now at peace in their lives.
Natalie Reilly is a freelance writer. You can follow Natalie on Twitter @ThatNatReilly.