Complete and utter merde.
Movie Review #1,058
Distributed by Universal Pictures. Drama, Romance. Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes. Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity, and language. Released November 13, 2015. Directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt. Written by Angelina Jolie Pitt. Starring Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, and Mélanie Laurent.
“By the Sea” marks the tenth anniversary of Brad and Angelina Jolie Pitt’s meeting each other on the set of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”. Once again, the two play a couple whose marriage is crumbling, except it’s less interesting this time.
The first hour of “By the Sea” bores us with the dull and depressing details of this declining marriage. Brad and Angelina are vacationing in the south of France. He wants to go there to cure his writer’s block, even though she clearly wanted the trip to be romantic getaway. Worse yet, he gets distracted from his writing and instead drinks every day away. Meanwhile, she takes walks around the beaches and starts spying on their newlywed neighbors through a hole in the wall. Somehow, the script manages to waste an entire hour by repeatedly glossing over the same events. It runs out of things to say pretty damn fast.
Just when you think it can’t get much worse, the story goes from banal to weird. Angelina shows Brad the hole in the wall, and they grow obsessed with watching their neighbors make love on a daily basis. There’s a voyeuristic aura to these scenes that makes them increasingly uncomfortable. But Brad and Angelina are a lot kinkier than we thought. Somehow, watching their neighbors have sex reignites their own love for each other. Their marriage starts to seem fine again, because of that creepy-ass hole in the wall.
“By the Sea” seems like a story of the marriage between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. If only Jolie Pitt’s writing was half as good as theirs. Don’t get me wrong: Angelina Jolie Pitt is a decent director and a wonderful actress. But her ability to write amounts to rubbing shit on 120 pieces of paper and calling it a screenplay. It’s heinously bad. So bad that her writing cuts heavily into her ability to deliver in the role of Vanessa.
I’m not even sure if we’re supposed to be commiserating with Vanessa. On an objective level, she deserves better. Her husband is a drunk, she has nothing to do all day, and she’s essentially trapped until he finally writes the novel he’s been obsessing about. But the film seems to bias more toward the husband. It’s made clear to us that the depressed wife is to blame for their crumbling marriage. Clearly, her depression is causing her to distrust her husband and become a manipulative bitch. And for the record, those are not actual signs of depression. They’re signs of Jolie Pitt trying to get away with being stupid. We’re never able to get into the mind of the protagonist/antagonist because she’s so goshdarn shallow.
“By the Sea” is a boring chronicle that ultimately goes nowhere and means nothing to its audience. The best the film has to offer is a nude Angelina Jolie Pitt. Even so, watching her have sex with her fully clothed husband in a bathtub is too dumb a sight to dismiss without laughing.