Flawed but am­bi­tious

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

stirred and aroused by the voyeurism, snap­ping her from her grief. It’s surely a great irony that one of the most fa­mous­wom­enin the world has made a movie so­much­about the mal­adies of envy and the tit­il­la­tions of watch­ing and be­ing watched.

As a movie, the euro retro By the Sea— a kind of Who’s Afraid of Vir­gini­aWoolf trans­planted to Eric Rohmer’s France— is too limp, too art­fully posed to work. The sin­gletear mo­ments of sad­ness, the over­done pres­ence of props (many cig­a­rettes and hats) and the some­times stilted di­a­logue make for a cu­ri­ously wooden at­mos­phere that even­tu­ally sti­fles the con­sid­er­able star-power of Pitt and Jolie Pitt.

Pitt’sHem­ing­way-esque writer, oc­ca­sion­ally speak­ing French, comes through more clearly. Jolie Pitt’s Vanessa, porce­lain and re­strained, does jus­tice to Vanessa’s all-con­sum­ing grief but her per­for­mance doesn’t sup­ply the melo­drama the force it needs.

But as a cu­rios­ity and an ex­per­i­ment, By the Sea is an in­trigu­ing ar­ti­fact and a re­mark­able book­end to their pre­vi­ous por­trait of mat­ri­mony, Mr. & Mrs. Smith. To la­bel it a “van­ity project” as some have done, is an in­jus­tice. Like Jolie Pitt’s pre­vi­ous di­rec­to­rial ef­forts ( In the Land of Blood andHoney, and Un­bro­ken), By the Sea is flawed but am­bi­tious, cer­tainly aim­ing for some­thing dis­tinc­tive and hon­est.

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