Thursday, September 24, 2015
By the Sea
By The Sea, the new vanity project from celebrity power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, is full of beautiful people, beautiful scenery, beautiful music, beautiful clothes, beautiful cars, and beautiful hotels full of beautiful furniture on which these beautiful, famous posteriors can rest. But despite being surrounded by deep blue Maltese waters, quaint taverns operated by quainter barkeeps, and perfectly photogenic baguettes dusted with just the right amount of flour, no one in this movie is happy. If they are, just wait.
The ennui of the wealthy has been explored to the point of cliché in European arthouse cinema, the clear entry point for Jolie’s latest directorial effort. In particular, she seems to have been inspired by the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, which, in practical terms, means a lot of standing on cliffs and looking out at the sea. That reflects more on Jolie than Antonioni, however, because despite her use of recurring visual themes—He flips over her sunglasses because he loves her! His lighter doesn’t work because the spark is gone from their relationship!—she seems more concerned with looking good than saying anything too deep.
Looking physically good, that is. Her character, a former dancer named Vanessa who’s recovering from some sort of devastating emotional blow for most of the movie’s 122-minute running time, is a narcissist who doesn’t seem to care how her cutting remarks and self-pity hurt her husband, Roland (Pitt). He’s not very nice either, a floundering novelist who, day after day, tries and fails to find inspiration at the bottom of a bottle. He drinks, she mopes, they smoke—the film is set sometime in the mid-20th century, when everyone smoked—they get up the next day and do it all again, never looking each other in the eye.