Excruciating melodrama By The Sea is beautiful but empty
BY THE SEA (Angelina Jolie). 122 minutes. Opens Friday (November 13). See listing. Rating: NN
If you’re looking for another Mr. And Mrs. Smith, don’t bother with By The Sea. This excruciating 70s-set melodrama about an estranged couple trying to escape to a hotel in the south of France has zero sizzle.
Pill-popping ex-dancer Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt) and alcoholic middling writer Roland (Brad Pitt) are so alienated from each other that spend almost no time together and barely talk when they’re in the same room. They only connect in any meaningful way when they’re spying on the honeymooning couple next door.
What’s their problem? After nearly two and half hours, we finally find out, and the payoff’s disappointing. Director Jolie Pitt’s script is super-slack, the pacing is awful, and the close-ups on her teary, makeup-stained face scream, “I’m acting here.” Actually, it’s Pitt who has the chops.
But what faces! And what a setting. The seaside Malta location and hotel are so spectacular, they easily upstage the drama. You can, however, only look at gorgeousness for so long. You need more – and there’s really not much here.