With the by-the-numbers 'By the Sea', Jolie shows she's neither a writer nor a director

Newstalk's resident film critic Philip Molloy also looks at 'Grandma' with Lily Tomlin

With the by-the-numbers 'By the Sea', Jolie shows she's neither a writer nor a director

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt star in 'By the Sea' [Universal Pictures]

Grandma (16)

In Grandma, 76-year-old Lily Tomlin plays lesbian poet and former college professor Elle Reid, whose comfortably secluded life is momentarily upended by a visit from her 18-year-old granddaughter. 

The granddaughter, Sage (Julie Garner), has discovered she is pregnant and she has made an appointment for a termination later that afternoon, but her mother has confiscated her credit cards and her grandma is the only one she can turn to for the money ($630) she needs.

The movie then turns into a kind of odd-couple journey story as the pair drive around Los Angeles, visiting old friends and acquaintances, in search of the cash. The various meetings fill out our view of Elle while acting – in a more general sense – as a wry melancholy, meditation on aging, self knowledge and acceptance.

Grandma was conceived for Tomlin by writer/director Paul Weitz after he had worked with her in the comedy/drama Admission. Tomlin had an extended cameo in that – here she is the main character and the actress brings her to life with compassionate, candid and sometimes withering knowingness.

The quality of the writing – and the playing –is underlined in a scene of about eight minutes into Grandma, in which Elle meets a mysterious man from her past (played by the great Sam Elliott) and the hurt she caused him in their break-up is still there, waiting almost feverishly to be lanced. Elliott, who has been doing movies and TV for over 40 years, brings a soulfulness to this scene that adds an emotional depth and narrative force to the whole movie.

Grandma is a small movie with a big heart cost that cost $600,000 and it is worth every dime of it.

Last week on the Picture Show, I spoke to Lily Tomlin about her career and her role in Grandma. Listen to that interview below:

By the Sea (15A)

There is really very little to be said about By the Sea, the first movie that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have made since they first got together on the set of Mr and Mrs Smith in 2004. It has been said that Universal Pictures did it with writer/director Jolie on a one-for-me, one-for-you basis – in which she would allegedly appear in this and then do the title role in a remake of The Bride of Frankenstein for them.

If that’s the case neither party was doing the other any favours. 

In By the Sea – which is reported to have lost over $30m in production and promotion costs – Pitt and Jolie play a deeply troubled writer and his wife who arrive at a small French seaside resort sometime in the 1970s.

He begins to drink heavily and she make barbed comments about him, herself and the state of their relationship. They have been together for 14 years and they seem to be about to break up and if you haven't figured out why in the first 20 minutes, you don’t go to the cinema that often.

By the Sea is an arid, self-indulgent and generally pointless psychodrama – and whatever she Jolie may be, she is neither a writer or director. 

Every Wednesday on The Right Hook, Philip joins George to talk movies and TV. Listen back to the podcast below:

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