Like a zephyr, quiet despair circulates Angelina Jolie Pitt’s flawed but entertaining seventies erotic romance, By the Sea. Jolie Pitt and her husband, Brad, star as Vanessa and Roland, a couple married for fourteen years, who sojourn to a seaside village in the French Mediterranean. Here, in paradise, Roland, a once successful writer, attempts to break through his writer’s block with gin, while Vanessa, a former dancer engulfed in ennui, pops pills and peeks on her neighbors’ private affairs through a little hole in the wall. Perhaps this is ironic and self-reflexive since we, thanks to tabloids, have that kind of peephole into Brad and Angelina’s world. Despite the size of its stars, By the Sea is not pompous: It’s not an ennobling story with saintly characters, or even likable ones, overcoming great adversity. Nor does it devolve into hysterics and shouting matches mistaken as signifiers of great acting. Ellen Mirojnick’s chic costumes shine; Christian Berger’s splendid cinematography resists turning the movie into a postcard. But Gabriel Yared’s generic, overwrought score infects moments that should’ve remained quiet. In contrast to her co-stars, Angelina Jolie Pitt’s unnatural performance is distracting. And, by ultimately revealing the couple’s source of unhappiness, Jolie Pitt’s screenplay undoes what’s best about By the Sea—its mystery. Fortunately, this comes at the end.
In French & English.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White