Brad Pitt has one very good reason to get your love. Even those of you who hate him for being liberal or finding Angelina attractive. After a careful review, I have determined him to be the quintessential cinematic Jesse James. Heck, it's not even close.
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" contains much that is authentic about the fella known as Mr. Howard who a racist to the core while also being something of a Robin Hood. Not much of a Robin Hood, but something. That brilliant film-probably the best movie of the first decade of the 21st century that most people didn't seen inside a theater-is not really concerned with the reality of Jesse James as it is the myth. And Brad Pitt brings the myth of the first American celebrity outlaw to life in a way that almost manages to not be overshadowed by the incredible performance of Casey Affleck as Bob Ford.
I did a little watching of Jesse James movies while the Weather Channel was helping local businesses around here justify jacking up prices and gouging those who turned out to be in absolutely no danger of having their lives upended by the storm at all. And I can say without a doubt that when it comes to putting the life of Jesse James on film, Brad Pitt did it best. And I doubt his performance will ever be topped.
Tyrone Power had it in him to be a great actor as anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to catch "Nightmare Alley" could tell you. Had "Jesse James" taken on the mythos of Jesse James as celebrity of infamy Power could likely have given Brad Pitt a run for his money. Power's performance is actually one of the weaker elements in that 1939 film that as a political document has greater lasting power than any other film about Jesse James up to "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." Of course, that film was made in a different time and could never have taken the story of James and turned it into what Pitt's 21st century version of "The King of Comedy" became.
If you really want to get an idea of just why you should consider "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" as one of the most important films you haven't yet seen, then watch it in a double feature alongside the deliriously campy "Jesse James' Women." You don't need to put the masterpiece that is the former up against the embarrassing guilty pleasure that is the latter in order to fully appreciate Brad Pitt if you count yourself among those who have yet to "get Pitt."
But it sure will help.
For more from Timothy Sexton, Yahoo!'s first Writer of the Year, check out: