By the Sea, written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt, is the actress’s third directorial effort
By the Sea, written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt, is filled with pretty landscape shots and extravagant scenery, but underwhelms in terms of intrigue in its plot and story. The story is about a married couple, Roland (Brad Pitt) and Vanessa (Jolie Pitt), who move into a lavish French resort for an undetermined amount of time to work on their marriage as well as for Roland to work on his book.
The couple’s marriage is obviously struggling, but you’re not told why until much later in the movie. Many clues are given throughout, yet the great reveal is very predictable and nothing extraordinary. The mise-en-scène picked up the slack that the story left behind. The costumes, makeup and sets were impressive and fit the movie’s ‘70s era perfectly. The film made good use of extreme long-shots, revealing the seaside scenery and resort constantly—practically casting the sea as a character.
The colour scheme of the film was also interesting. The turquoise blue of the sea contrasted beautifully with a lot of beige and brown. The bleak, dull and neutral colours of the hotel room and of Vanessa and Roland’s clothing paint an accurate picture of the couple’s fading relationship. At least, the chemistry that first appeared on screen between Pitt and Jolie Pitt in 2005 with Mr. and Mrs. Smith is just as real in By the Sea, and is perhaps greater thanks to the actors’ decade-long relationship.
The acting and the directing weren’t the problem in this film. The problem came with the storyline that held by a thread. The thread, in this case, could be the budget of the film and the names attached to the story. It seems as if it could be a story that’s been read or seen dozens of times by the average audience member, but one which was decorated with fancy hotel rooms, pretty views and beautiful people. The storyline didn’t bring much originality to the tired idea of a struggling marriage where the wife pops a lot of pills and reads a lot of Vogue and where the husband constantly drinks and drowns himself in work. The dialogue was weak and often filled with clichés. Although it is likely that the director purposefully avoided having a lot of dialogue, the dialogue that was present needed to be stronger.
Some aspects of style and content seemed to be Hemingway-esque. Roland is an American writer who drinks a lot of whiskey, talks to old men by the sea and escapes to small French cafés to find his inspiration, which makes him almost a prototype of the great American writer.
Despite its earnest attempts, By The Sea was unable to live up to Jolie’s ambitions. To recreate a story that has been told again and again in Hollywood and abroad, you need to have an original or at least somewhat different slant to it. This movie failed to have that slant, and instead, was just a clichéd failing romance with pretty scenery.
Running time: 132 min.
Written & directed by Angelina Jolie
Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud