Set in France during the mid-1970s, Vanessa, a former dancer, and her husband Roland, an American writer, travel the country together. They seem to be growing apart, but when they linger in one quiet, seaside town they begin to draw close to some of its more vibrant inhabitants, such as a local bar/café-keeper and a hotel owner.Written by
Filmed entirely on the small island of Gozo, which is part of the Mediterranean country of Malta. See more »
When Vanessa is in the bathtub as Roland describes what is happening in the neighboring room, Vanessa is shown with the water level just above her nipples, then shown resting her head on the edge of the tub and sinking a little lower. A few seconds later, during which her head has not moved, the water level is a couple inches below her nipples when it ought to be an inch or so above them. See more »
What do you do when you're a Hollywood power couple? You get your passion projects made into films. (You might even choose to write and direct them yourself!) And when you're a beautiful Hollywood power couple? You cast yourselves. (It's a cinematic portrait to remind you when you're old of how good you used to look!) And when you're a beautiful Hollywood power couple who's getting married in the same region where the film you wrote takes place? Well, you make the movie on your honeymoon. (As the French say in accented English, "but of course!") This is how "By the Sea" (R, 2:02) got made.
This movie stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt – the first film in which she has been so credited and the first time the two have appeared on screen together since Jennifer Aniston's least favorite film, 2005's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith", during which the aforementioned couple of stars first became a star couple. As in their previous on-screen pairing, they are in a marriage with serious issues. This time their characters are not trying to kill each other even though it often seems that they want to. Both of these characters are joyless, self-loathing, rude and selfish. There are reasons for some of this, but the main reason is treated in the film as a dramatic reveal, rather than used to greater effect throughout the film.
The movie takes place on the French island of Corsica in the mid-1970s, where the couple is living temporarily in an up-scale hotel overlooking the water. Pitt plays Roland, the writer of a well-received first novel. He's trying to recapture his mojo, but ends up spending most of his time holding a drink. Jolie Pitt plays Roland's wife Vanessa, who is even more sullen than Roland and basically does nothing but sit around hating her life and trying to decide if she hates her husband. Roland spends his days away from their room drinking, trying to write something and talking with the owner of the hotel's restaurant, Michel (Niels Arestrup). Michel is kind and wise, not that it benefits the self-centered Roland much.
Vanessa spends most of her time in a room with no television, so she gets her entertainment by watching through a hole in the wall as their young married neighbors (Mélanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud) enjoy their honeymoon. Roland and Vanessa both become friends with the couple, because, you know, there's nothing better for a failing marriage than peeping on a sexy young couple who have what you wish you still had and then spending time with them, in various fate-tempting combinations.
This film does tell an honest and revealing story of the dynamics of a marriage in trouble (and hints at how such a marriage might be repaired), but most of the plot is very predictable. The genuinely interesting moments are few and far between, with its slow pace making us feel that the movie is dragging us to those moments. But, hey, at least the Mediterranean scenery is nice to look at.
"By the Sea" basically amounts to a very expensive cinematic photo session for two beautiful Hollywood stars – and we get to pay to be voyeurs! Pitt and Jolie Pitt are both undeniably easy on the eyes, as are Laurent and Poupaud, all of whom we see in varying degrees of nudity (especially the women). There's also no denying that the Pitts are both very talented actors. Their acting chops are on full display in this story, but that doesn't keep the movie from coming off feeling self-indulgent. It doesn't help that the characters Jolie Pitt has written are almost completely unlikeable (even Pitt's character remarking matter-of-factly that his wife is not a good person and that they're both "a**holes"). The script's big reveal is anti-climactic and directed melodramatically, like much of the film. This is a sometimes-interesting, beautifully-filmed movie whose success depends mainly on the appeal of its two big stars. But in this film, they're not very appealing. This is a passion project lacking in passion. "By the Sea" should've stayed there. How do I grade such a movie as "By the Sea"? WITH a C minus. But of course!
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