'By the Sea' is a snooze that doesn't do its co-stars any favors

Angelina Jolie (who also directed) and Brad Pitt star in 'Sea' as a couple who are struggling in their marriage and who travel to a seaside hotel in the south of France.

Merrick Morton/Universal Pictures/AP
'By the Sea' stars Brad Pitt (l.) and Angelina Jolie (r.).

Angelina Jolie Pitt (as she is now named) wrote, directed, and costars in “By the Sea” opposite her husband Brad Pitt. It’s their first time acting together since the 2005 spy thriller “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” so perhaps another 10 years will elapse before the next pairing. Here’s hoping.

While not quite on the way-bad level of such vanity productions as Madonna’s “Swept Away,” “By the Sea” certainly doesn’t do either of its costars any favors. Jolie Pitt plays a depressed former dancer and Pitt is a famous novelist struggling to finish (or start?) a new book. They have retreated to a seaside hotel in the south of France that, even in the early 1970s when the film takes place, must have gone for about $1,000 per night. The vistas are extraordinary, the dialogue less so. 

The couple’s marriage, like their hotel room, is on the rocks. Most of their time is spent bickering, agonizing, walking out on each other, smoking and drinking (especially him), and, in the film’s only moments of levity, peeping through a hole in the wall at the lovemaking of the couple next door. 

Jolie Pitt is trying for the languorousness of a '70s French or Italian art film but this snooze of a movie doesn’t come close. She swans around like a long-eyelashed Cleopatra while Pitt chain-smokes, scribbles in his writing notebook, and drinks vast quantities of just about everything – including gin for breakfast.

Both Jolie Pitt and Pitt have demonstrated their chops in far better movies. I suspect the problem here is that there was no one around to tell them, “Please don’t. Please. Don’t.” Grade: C- (Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity, and language.)

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