By the Sea (2015)
Directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt
Before starting, I should mention that most romantic movies are trash; they combine a nonsense story with mediocre acting and don't contribute anything to the world of cinema. Romance is only worth anything when it's a smaller part of something larger, like a dramatic story.
Brad Pitt plays Roland with Angelina Jolie as his wife, Vanessa. The pair arrive at a small, seaside hotel in France in the 1970s so Roland, a writer, can find some inspiration. We quickly find that their marriage is in trouble as they talk to other people in the hotel, including the owner of a nearby bar and a newly married couple in the room next door. We get peaks into their marriage as they each try to improve things in their own way, talking and not talking, drinking and smoking... lots of smoking... really ridiculous amounts of smoking. This vacation, of sorts, is meant to help the two work out their issues, but ends up being an emotional roller coaster ride.
Imagine this: a famous writer and a famous dancer fall in love. The writer has a blossoming career but the dancer leaves hers behind. Despite generally being assholes, they end up wealthy and try to start a family. When their marriage starts to hurt the writer develops an alcohol dependency and they take a months-long vacation to sort things out. That's what this movie is about. By the Sea is about a rich, entitled couple who can't handle that things aren't perfect in their life.
The acting is mediocre; the photography is beautiful; the romance is sad. It hurts to watch this couple trying to patch things up because they both lack common sense. They're bad at communicating, selfish, manipulative, and lie quite a lot. Their story isn't particularly intriguing because who wants to watch two rich, selfish, entitled people act selfish and semi-abusive?
It's also sad that people like this probably exist...
There isn't a whole lot about By the Sea that's memorable or original beyond a couple scenes that seem to be added specifically to be remembered. The screenplay, also written by Angelina Jolie, wants desperately to be dramatic, with memorable lines.
Unfortunately, the lines are only memorable because of how ridiculous they are. Lines like, "Now my outsides match my insides," are simply painful to hear. They're lines that teenage girls are going to plaster all over their Tumblr blogs because they think it's romantic or beautiful. It's not.
By the Sea tries desperately to channel French eroticism and Romantic styles of years gone by but is bogged down by it's glacial pace and, frankly, lack of interesting material. There could've been a great movie, here. Roland, Vanessa, and the bar owner, Michel, are all interesting, deep characters, and could've provided a more interesting story. But it's crushed under the weight of these married assholes trying to save their marriage from their own assholishness by being assholes.
The only somewhat redeeming factors in the whole affair are the photography of Christian Berger, strong production values, and the extensive, comedic quips by Roland and Vanessa that show how paranoid and manipulative they are. It almost tries to turn emotional trauma and troubled marriages into comedic material with an erotic twist, but who needs to see Angelina Jolie's bare breasts or a horny Brad Pitt slide into a bathtub, fully clothed, to make sweet love to her? Its utter Oscar-bait tied into a dramatic and desperately emotional, but still drained, story.
Better dialogue, a different direction, less of a focus on sex... I don't actually know what could make By the Sea a better movie. But as it is, it's just a forgettable, romantic look into the marital trouble of the 70s.
TL;DR: I like Brad Pitt. And I like Angelina Jolie. And I was kind of excited for this period drama. It has fantastic production values and good photography but the story is plain. The editing is mediocre and obvious and revealing, the dialogue is often laughable and sometimes awkward, and the premise could've been so much more.
- Acting – 11 / 20
- Story – 6 / 20
- Cinematography – 16 / 20
- Soundtrack – 3 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 4 / 10
- Romance/Drama – 3 / 10
- Other – 2 / 10