What should we make of ‘By the Sea’?

12 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Angelina Jolie lacks sleep.

By the Sea’s first frames focus on two of the most photogenic movie stars on the planet (married in real life, to boot), careening along a seaside road in Malta. About seven months after Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston got married, The Onion ran the brilliant headline “Brad Pitt Bored With Sight of Jennifer Aniston’s Naked Body.” It was a perfect joke on a couple of levels, but the element of truth that’s always stayed with me was the notion that even the most beautiful, desirable people are still just ….people.

“By the Sea,” a drama about marital dysfunction that Jolie Pitt directed, wrote and co-stars in opposite her real life husband Brad Pitt, will open this Friday in 10 theaters in a handful of major cities. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jolie admitted that directing and filming with her husband, , in their upcoming flick By the Sea was extemely awkward. “It’s the strangest thing in the world to be lying naked in a bathtub with an iPad that’s showing you the shot outside, while your husband is at the door and you’re directing him to come in and make love to you,” Jolie, 40, told Entertainment Weekly. “[And] in front of a bunch of other men with cameras.” “Love scenes are strange anyway, but when you’re doing a love scene with a person that you really have sex with? We can all fantasize about the perfect lover with the perfect body and the perfect personality, but time has a way of stripping the fantasy out of everything. The film cost $10 million to produce and Universal, the studio behind the project, insists that it was always intended to be an homage to European art films, not a commercial enterprise.

Brad still enjoys acting as much as he always has, and I’m fully supportive of him. “Acting is just not as important in my life as it once was and I’m very happy to be able to spend most of my time looking after our children. The only way to get through it was for us to all talk about the absurdity of it and make sure no one was feeling awkward,” she explained, before adding that Pitt, as her husband, would get protective. “I couldn’t get out of the bathtub to get to the monitor because the director is naked,” she told EW. “We’re artists and want to be free, but Brad — it’s his wife. As her kids, Maddox, 14, Pax, 11, Zahara, 10, Shiloh, nine, and seven-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne, get older, Jolie is fascinated watching them growing and changing, and tries to spend as much quality time with them as possible. “They ask more and more questions and have such a great curiosity about life.

Now, however, the actress is glad she did it. “The surgeries still allow you to be a woman,” said Jolie, who opted to have the preventative surgery because she carries the breast cancer gene. “I hope other women — anyone who is worried about those issues and how [your body] can feel or look — can see that through [the scene]. But Universal is having a monster year at the box office and betting on Jolie Pitt paid off with “Unbroken,” which hauled $161.4 million at the global box office, so even if it losses money, the studio should be in good shape. But it soon becomes clear that this is all an illusion: Roland is a blocked writer, Vanessa is a retired and spiritually adrift dancer, and neither of them are particularly thrilled to be hanging around the other in such a secluded, intimate paradise.

The reasons behind this long-married couple’s fraying inform By the Sea’s central mystery, and writer-director Jolie offers some big clues, which will lead to a pretty predictable revelation. The picture scored an A- CinemaScore, but some reviews were dismissive and there have been a number of “think pieces” poking holes in the film’s plotting. revious Craig ventures have declined anywhere from 24.6% (much loved “Casino Royale”) to 60.4% (much loathed “Quantum of Solace”) in their second weekends. It’s only when two attractive French newlyweds (Melvil Poupaud and Melanie Laurent) check into the room next door – and Vanessa finds a peephole to watch them have sex – that flashes of vibrancy pierce through her anguish.

A little of this affected aesthetic goes a long way, though: Jolie lets us linger in Roland and Vanessa’s exquisite slow-motion melancholy, but she can’t quite figure out how to translate that gorgeous misery into anything other than designer ennui. Another holdover, Fox’s “The Peanuts Movie,” should come in slightly behind “Spectre.” Bolstered by strong reviews and word-of-mouth, the film will likely make $27 million, a modest drop from its $44.2 million launch. Shortly before marrying Pitt last summer and setting off for Malta with their six children, Jolie had completed her biggest feature to date, Unbroken, also for Universal (it grossed a respectable $115 million domestically). Vanessa stumbles upon a discreet peephole between the two rooms, and soon she becomes infatuated with watching—not for titillation, per se, but because she craves the connection that these two seem to have effortlessly.

Not to mention, when powerhouses appear together on screen (a la Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) it can prove fruitful. (Let’s not speak of what can happen otherwise … Vanessa begins to wonder if Roland wants to sleep with Lea, while he becomes convinced that Vanessa is coming on to François, and deep down Vanessa and Roland seem to be stung by the fact that, not that long ago, they were this sparkling, happy couple.

In addition to Jolie Pitt’s “By the Sea,” there’s “The 33” from Mexican filmmaker Patricia Riggen and “Love the Coopers” from “Stepmom” screenwriter Jessie Nelson. Two actors like this, some of the biggest names in Hollywood to really have no buzz behind (their film) is really surprising, no matter what (kind of film) it is,” he says. At the film’s premiere, Jolie told the audience that the movie was inspired by the death of her mother, and that the story was her way of discussing loss. It doesn’t matter how big of a movie star you are, they are incredibly cautious,” says Jeetendr Sehdev, celebrity branding expert and USC marketing professor. “Studios are coming under and incredible amount of pressure and movies have to perform.” Still, Bock gives Jolie Pitt points for pushing the envelope. “She’s testing herself on a different level as a director,” he says, with one big weakness. “She’s not a no name, she can’t go and experiment (quietly).” Where does that leave audiences? The studio is hoping that the picture will be a slow-burner that opens modestly but sticks around, much as older-skewing comedies like “Last Vegas” and “The Intern” have done.

There’s always the voyeuristic fun peering in on such a famous couple behind closed doors, though Jolie Pitt warns that the storms in her Sea are pure fiction. “To be clear: we have fights and problems like any other couple,” the actress/director told The Telegraph. “We have days when we drive each other absolutely mad and want space, but the problems in the movie aren’t our specific problems.” That leaves Clarius Entertainment’s “My All American,” the story of Freddie Steinmark, a plucky member of the University of Texas football team whose playing career was cut short after his leg was amputated.

It’s a true life tale, and one that the studio expects will resonate with the faith-based crowds that made “War Room” and “God’s Not Dead” hits.

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