Friday, November 6, 2015


Angelina Jolie Pitt’s ‘By the Sea’ Aiming at Art, Not Oscar

Awards Editor @timgray_variety
Angelina Jolie Pitt’s “By the Sea” is a heartfelt, physically beautiful film which proves that “slow-moving” can be a positive, not a negative. But it’s dubious whether all the film’s quiet virtues can translate into year-end awards.
For better or worse, any movie that opens in the fourth quarter, or that is booked during a major film festival, gets scrutiny for its Academy Awards potential. But “By the Sea” seems the opposite of “Oscar bait.” Jolie Pitt wrote, directed, produced (with Brad Pitt) and stars in a tale about a couple on vacation who are going through a difficult period, as one of the onscreen characters observes.
The movie had its world premiere Nov. 5, opening the AFI Fest in Hollywood. According to the program, “The film is inspired by European cinema and theatre of the 1960s and 1970s.” In introductory remarks at the TCL Chinese Theatre, Jolie Pitt said it’s about grief and learning to move past it. Clearly, a project like this is not an easy sell, and the thoughtful pacing (which spotlights little moments and details, often with minimal dialogue) seems a deliberate antidote to the current fashion of fast-paced films.
After the premiere, one partygoer said, “Good for her, she got this movie made.” Yes, absolutely good for her. But awards voters may feel that’s reward enough.
People will love or hate the film, but it does exactly what it set out to do. All the work is commendable, including the performances by the two leads, cinematography by Christian Berger, costume design by Ellen Mirojnick and music by Gabriel Yared. The film will be released by Universal this month.
It’s Jolie’s third feature as director and follows last year’s “Unbroken,” which earned $161 million worldwide.

By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 6, 2015 at 2:14AM
Stylish, languid, sad, and sexy, 'By the Sea' explores a couple in a deteriorating marriage who are fascinated by the nubile newlyweds next door.

A sad married couple played by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt take an escapist Mediterranean holiday in "By the Sea," writer-director Jolie Pitt's elegantly slow-paced marital drama with grief at its heart and a peephole for diversion.
It's a good thing Jolie and Pitt are so much fun to watch (smoking cigs and speaking French), and their Malta setting so gorgeous (shot by Christian Berger with natural light), because there's not much going on. It's the 70s (picked by Jolie for its lack of distractions) and this duo is bored. Roland is a bestselling novelist with writer's block who shoves a notebook in his pants and drinks with the local pub owner (always charming Niels Arestrup), while Vanessa pops pills and wanders like a depressed Monica Vitti by the rocky sea, wearing flowing white dresses and hiding her crying eyes under drooping hats and jumbo-sized Sophia Loren shades. (Ellen Mirojnick is the costume designer.)
They're barely communicating, much less having sex, and they become attracted to the young just-marrieds next door (Melanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud) who are lustily making a baby. First Vanessa watches through a peephole, then Roland, who suggests they do it together. They guiltily hang out on the floor on either side of the peephole with clinking wine glasses, allowing themselves to get worked up.
Clearly the couple is childless for a reason, which we eventually discover. It's appropriate that Gena Rowlands attended the AFI opener, as Jolie is aiming for an intimate Cassavetes-style exploration of emotion. Sometimes she gets there; both actors are fine. Jolie wrote, produced, directed and starred; she might have juiced up the bare-bones screenplay.
Universal Pictures, after a torrid record-breaking year at the box office, seems to be having a hiccup as "Crimson Peak" and "Steve Jobs" underperformed. When Jolie's third feature opens November 13, while there will be curiosity to see the married stars in their first movie since "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" a decade ago, it's unlikely to score big numbers.
When Jolie was promoting last year's World War II saga "Unbroken," she had just finished shooting "By the Sea" on her honeymoon. She told me that "to go to a very small piece that I wrote about relationships, that's very experimental and logistically easy, was a very nice change." While directing herself "wasn't fun or easy," directing her husband "was actually more fun," she said. "Working with him was a real pleasure. He's a joy to work with."
Last year late entries "American Sniper" and "Selma" debuted at the AFI FEST and both went on to secure Best Picture Oscar nominations, but in a hyper-competitive year this exercise in Euro nostalgia is unlikely to make a big splash.

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