By the Sea Review
By the by
Riding almost entirely on the mere presence of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, By the Sea is an unnecessarily lethargic look at tragedy and loss.Confusing contemplativeness with constipation, this drawn-out look at a marriage on the rocks thinks that it is cleverer than its audience, hedging its bet that the ultimate revelations would justify the endurance challenge of getting through the rest of the film. It’s not though, and Jolie’s writer/directorial capabilities are more to blame than the performances of her and her husband.It's their star power that hooks you in, but unfortunately it's the only think that keeps your attention as you wait around for a satisfying twist that would retro-fit these characters with some deeper quality that makes their behaviour and interactions more resonant. It’s not that the twist lacks meaning, it just lacks effect, trite in the sea of tales that have covered this territory before.
Perhaps the languid French setting is designed to give the film further flavour, sitting by the sea with Pitt and Jolie’s fraught couple wrestling with unspoken demons – him buried in a bottle for most of the day working on writing the book he can’t seem to start, while she self-medicates herself into oblivion – but the setting also feels like a bit of an excuse for nothing to happen.
There's something detached and strangely disingenuous about this ostensibly earnest look at the tragedy tearing apart a married couple.
Jolie doesn’t even really take in the view, instead attempting some jarring near-subliminal flash images clumsily designed to portend the ultimate twist. Pitt’s the strongest presence here, with dedicated commitment to his wife’s work, but it’s all for naught, as neither of them can rescue the film from its inert state.
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