Directed by Angelina Jolie-Pitt
Starring Angelina Jolie-Pitt, Brad Pitt
A leaden nod to European cinema by Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, this film acts as a monument to the pretension and self indulgence of passion projects.
Set along the French seaside in the 1970s, a quarreling couple try to put their differences aside and repair their relationship. American novelist Roland (Brad Pitt) struggles with inspiration as his days disappear in a drunken stupor. By contrast his wife Vanessa (Angelina Jolie) contemplates suicide, and is infatuated by the lapping waves and rocky coastline upon which their hotel is set. However their joyless marriage is shaken up when Vanessa discovers a peephole into the room of the newlyweds next door.
If By The Sea achieves one thing well, it is making the audience vividly experience the tedium of a relationship on the rocks. We are dragged across every agonising second, and our prayers for a quick release fall on deaf ears. It is a turgid experience that limps on for over two hours, but feels infinitely longer. The script mistakes stilted for enigmatic and banal for profound, as these paper thin constructs wallow around the hotel and bar.
Blame here rests purely on Jolie’s shoulders. As writer, director, producer and star, there was apparently no point in the process where anyone could interject to say what an awful idea this was. As a director Jolie might retain the strong visual style she demonstrated in Unbroken (although I suspect a nod to her DOP, Christen Berger, is in order), but lacks any understanding of pace or characterisation. A reminder that sometimes a bit of friction and the occasional challenge can produce unexpectedly good results in a work.
Nothing this awful has appeared in a coastal town, since HP Lovecraft set pen to paper. Personally I would prefer a beach-side vacation to Amity Island in ’75, than to sit through this dross again.