This Is the Pitts

Angelina Jolie’s 'By the Sea' is on a boat to nowhere

Angelina Jolie in By the Sea.
Angelina Jolie in By the Sea. (Photo: Courtesy Universal Pictures 2015)

Looking lovely and catatonic, Angelina Jolie, who now calls herself Angelina Jolie Pitt, has come up with an exercise in self-indulgence for herself and husband Brad that is so boring it defies description. By the Sea is not only a dog; it’s a dog that’s got fleas.

(1/4 stars)

Written and directed by: Angelina Jolie Pitt
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt and Mélanie Laurent
Running time: 132 min.

After the powerhouse job she did directing her last film, Unbroken, I expected more polish, but By the Sea doesn’t even look like it came out of the same editing room. There is so little dialogue that it might as well be a silent film, and the direction consists of nothing more than long camera caresses of a fishing boat in the lapping waves of the early Mediterranean sun. You could write what passes for a plot on the head of a bobby pin. It begins when the Pitts pull up to a small inn in the South of France overlooking the sea.  They are so dazed and tired of each other they can hardly speak. He’s a writer who can’t think of anything to write. She’s an ex-dancer who has given up on life, and now spends her days and nights crying more than anyone since Margaret O’Brien. Their flashy sports car is too tiny to hold a paper clip, but in the next scene they’re unloading more Vuitton luggage than you could fit on the Queen Mary. She wears wide-brimmed hats.

She spends her time in bed, weeping. He stays out all day, drinking himself unconscious, conversing in college French and playing chess with the bartender. Sometimes he comes home, vomits and passes out cold. At other times, he goes out on the dock and sleeps on a bench. When he kisses her, she turns her head and tears roll down her sculpted cheekbones. She reads a book and starts bawling. “Are we ever going to talk about it?” he asks impatiently, in a rare outburst. What “it” is takes two hours to reveal and then you realize you figured it out in the first scene and discarded the problem as too obvious. “Some day you’re gonna stop acting like this,” he scolds. But she never does. Things pick up when they find a hole in the wall and become voyeurs, watching the honeymooners next door making love. It becomes a ritual, then an obsession. 

Holy career breaker, what is going on here? The Pitts are ravishing, but if their own relationship is half as dismal, it’s anyone’s guess how they manage to get beyond breakfast in one piece. Bloodless, drained and slow as a caterpillar, By the Sea was filmed on the rocks of Malta, which looks nothing whatsoever like the Cote d’Azur. It’s not easy to watch, and nothing enlightening ever happens while you try. In the end, the Pitts climb back into their car and drive away, ready for their next close-up. Not a minute too soon, if you ask me. This Is the Pitts