Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

By the Sea

By the Sea
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Rated: R for strong sexuality, nudity, and language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: November 13, 2015 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.

Angelina Jolie (Unbroken, In The Land of Blood and Honey) reunites on the silver screen with hubby Brad Pitt and uses his name on the billing in what was written and directed in the aftermath of her mother's passing. It's been over a decade since 'Brangelina' got started with Doug Liman's Mr. & Mrs. Smith in which both played competing assassins. The actress turned director makes movies she wants to see even if she doesn't get out that much anymore to the multiplex. Box-office isn't her concern though it seems when married couples appear on screen in leading parts theatrical success is fleeting.

By The Sea has a visual lyricism using a mid-1970s French Mediterranean setting well as a kind of mystique turns into nearly chronic ennui after her Vanessa smells fish upon their seaside arrival as a gambit begins to take hold upon the arrival of Vanessa and crestfallen husband writer Roland (Pitt) at a posh hotel room.

A severed angst is evident between the cigarette-smoking spouses as earlier strife is apparent from some keyed-up bickering. She sulks and he goes swilling some gin while not filling a page with the local barkeep (filled with bonhomie by Niels Arestrup). Without children and together for fourteen years something is lacking that adjoining honeymooning couple Lea (Melanie Laurent ofInglourious Basterds which featured Pitt as Aldo Ray in Quentin Tarantino's WWII revisionist history) and Francois (Melvil Poupaud) salaciously have.

Their reluctant bonding actually helps the sullen wife for awhile when observing their younger active counterparts as Jolie Pitt (Oscar winner who has impressed more in Malificent, A Mighty Heart and Changeling, for example) peeps with tantalizing fashion an espial coveting before settling into more labored adornment (which includes many conversations and hats) that just underscores the artifice of the enterprise. And, her character just can't escape a vacuity that needed more of a nuanced Virginia Woolf in her - it would have been interesting how the late Mike Nichols would have tried to instill more excitement into the material given the star power. Perhaps a little restraint in the makeup department would have been a start.

Pitt actually comes off better as a variant of the kind of character in a Hemingway novel but can't overcome the strained aura when a not so surprising last act revelation can't break a cernuous spell. The filmmaking espouses a kind of arthouse fare to tickle the whites of existentially and the irony of its métier to fall short of its intended sincere significance. By The Sea doesn't quite get into the human psyche like Eyes Wide Shut did in its oddly perverse, if watchable fashion with its married stars at the time, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. It may very be met with a chillier reception than the controversial final film from the reclusive Stanley Kubrick, especially given its timing and distribution.

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By the Sea        C-                     C- 

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