BY THE SEA – Review by Susan Granger

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When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married, they spent their honeymoon leisurely making this humorless vanity project, fully aware that Brangelina publicity would propel its eventual release. What they obviously were unaware of was how awful it would turn out. Read on…

And one wonders why?

When they first teamed up for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005), enough sparks ignited to propel Pitt’s divorce from Jennifer Aniston, but now – in this romantic drama – their on-screen chemistry has completely fizzled. Their contrived conversation seems stilted – without any emotional connection.

Actually, that’s not surprising. When Madonna co-starred with then-husband Sean Penn in “Shanghai Surprise” (1986), it flopped, and she fared no better directed by then-husband Guy Ritchie in “Swept Away” (2002).

Set in the 1970s, this story begins as blond-mustached Roland Bertrand (Pitt) and his vain wife Vanessa (Jolie) are driving through the French countryside in a vintage Citroen convertible. When they arrive at a picturesque seaside resort, they unload a stack of Louis Vuitton luggage, filled with her diaphanous couture clothes, indicating a lengthy stay.

Roland is planning to work on his second novel as they try to resolve some traumatic marital issues. He boozes and she gulps pills, so there’s not much progress on either count until they become voyeurs, spying through a peephole on young honeymooners – Lea (Melanie Laurent) and Francois (Melvil Poupaud) – in a neighboring suite, vicariously sharing their sexual encounters.

Trying for a triple play, as writer, director and star, Angelina Jolie flounders, despite a $10 million budget and Christian Berger’s pastel Mediterranean cinematography – with Malta standing in for France’s Cote d’Azur.

Allegedly, Jolie, who adroitly directed the Louis Zamperini biopic “Unbroken” (2014), has been tinkering with this screenplay since her mother died of cancer eight years ago; significantly, her mother’s name was also Bertrand.

Indicative of the couple’s narcissistic self-awareness, Roland notes, “We’ve had a life you couldn’t imagine….”

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