“What’s that sound?” Angelina Jolie Pitt’s character says to Brad Pitt’s character in “By the Sea.”
“The sea,” he says, leaving out the “duh.”
They unpack his typewriter in their posh boutique hotel in the south of late 1960s France (Malta was the location).
“Are you off to find inspiration?” she wants to know.
“I HAVE my inspiration!”
“Then why are we here?”
The Americans settle into the slow, sunny pace of life on the Cote d’azur. And bicker.
“You resist happiness.”
“Have I become that dull?”
You have, dear, you have.
“By the Sea” is a still-life of a movie, lovely French scenery, with people in front of the scenery who rarely move and never move us.
Roland is a writer with writer’s block, Vanessa his perfectly-put-together frostbitten wife.
He goes to drink in the village cafe every morning. Niels Arestrup, everybody’s idea of what an aged Frenchman should look like, is the barkeep, who indulges Pitt’s French and his incessant smoking. Roland’s also a mean drunk.
Vanessa sunbathes and pouts, walks the rocky shore and pouts, and when she discovers a hole left by a pipe that led into the next room, she spies on the happy, sexy newlyweds, played by Melanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud.
“By the Sea” plays like a vanity project, a veteran leading lady (post double-mastectomy, no less) showing she’s still the rail-thin beauty who can pull off the nude scenes with panache.
There’s nothing wrong with modern Hollywood’s version of Taylor and Burton dissecting a troubled marriage in what is essentially a dull, scenic and talky play peppered with long, meaningful (?) pauses.
But it’s a vacuous affair, dull performances trapped in duller writing, ironically funny only when you take the writer’s words to be the screenwriter’s admission of guilt.
“Any writer worth his salt could get a story here. It’s just me.”
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, nudity, and language
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Niels Arestrup, Melvil Poupaud
Credits: Written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt. A Universal release.
Running time: 2:12