Esther McCarthy and Sarina Bellissimo review By the Sea and Sisters on today's Movies and Booze
By the Sea (15A) *
By Esther McCarthy
Ordinarily this would smack of a vanity project picked by the planet’s biggest stars - but that seems a bit unfair, as both tend to choose their projects wisely.
In any case, there's no vanity to be had from this turgid, lifeless drama about the implosion of a marriage.
Jolie, who directs as well as stars here, has shown promise behind the camera in the past, with the rousing and well-made, if overegged, Unbroken.
Whatever their intentions, this resulting movie is a massive misfire for both stars - smacking of pretentiousness and lacking the heart needed to make the story intimate and interesting. Worst of all, it’s boring.
Pitt and Jolie play Roland and Vanessa, a wealthy American couple in the 1970s who arrive in a sleepy, beautiful seaside town in the South of France for an extended break.
We quickly learn that all is not well between the two and they’re on vacation in a bid to repair their fractured marriage.
At least, that’s Roland’s hope - his wife, however, seems vacant and unapproachable, and spends her days pill popping and staring out to sea.
It’s not long before he’s self-medicating too, and spending his days drinking and hanging out with the charming locals in a nearby hotel bar.
When a young newlywed couple, full of the joys of spring, move into the room next door, it only serves to underline their misery - that is, until they find a hole in the wall that allows them to spy on their neighbours.
Cue two hours of boozing, bickering and languorous storytelling that throws up few surprises. Even the film’s ‘big reveal’ is apparent from early on.
When Jolie cries: “I need to get out of this room” late in the film, I could truly understand how she felt.