By the Sea Blu-ray review
The couple drives along the road in a small convertible along the French coast, the hair under their hats blowing in the breeze. As they cruise along and brake down steep turns, they say nothing.
When they arrive at their destination, their first stop is the bar, where they have gin and white wine. The bartender/owner of the hotel, Michel (Niels Arestrup, 2014’s DIPLOMACY, for which he earned his fifth César Award nomination), asks what brings the Americans to France. The husband, Roland (Brad Pitt, Adam McKay’s THE BIG SHORT) replies, “Just wanted to get away from it all.”
Roland and his wife, former dancer Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt, who proved an effective villain in her turn as the titular Mistress of All Evil in MALEFICENT), immediately rearrange the furniture in the hotel to their liking. After all, they will be there for as long as it takes. Their marriage isn’t merely on the rocks; it seems to have been walloped across the head with a sack of them. When he tells her to have a nice day, she says, “I won’t.” to which he replies, “I know.” She questions their trip, which itself is clearly an effort to mend the wounds.
The source of the wounds isn’t quite clear until the end, but it’s easy enough to figure out. But it doesn’t really matter, since it isn’t entirely necessary that the reason be explained. What is is that the relationship be one worth exploring. In BY THE SEA, Roland drinks, Vanessa wanders. Roland drinks, Vanessa sobs in bed. Roland drinks, Vanessa spies on the neighbors. Occasionally, they lust over others (the couple next door, played by INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS’ Mélanie Laurent and THE GREAT GAME’s Melvil Poupaud). There must be a sizeable portion of the audience hoping Roland gets his book done so they can go back to the States and end the movie.
It is easy to write BY THE SEA off as a vanity project. After all, here are two of the biggest names and sexiest faces in Hollywood who happen to be married, starring in a project that boasts a cast of about six or so. But BY THE SEA appears to be something a bit more curious. By the time the end credits appear, the film has come off as a role-playing experiment. Here, really, is a superstar couple pretending to be drunk, lonely and empty, which is so hard to buy that, despite the talents of both Pitt and Jolie Pitt—Pitt himself still rarely gets the credit he deserves as an actor; Jolie Pitt is far more than a pretty face—it all comes off as some sort of joke.
Directed by Jolie Pitt (2014’s UNBROKEN, 2011’s IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY), BY THE SEA can’t merely get by on what it expects to, which appears to be this simple formula: Hollywood elite + gorgeous foreign locales = acclaimed success. It has to have more. And yet it doesn’t, with Pitt and Jolie Pitt skirting around those raw, shattering moments that would make the film memorable. Like a hole in the wall, BY THE SEA offers a glimpse but is limited in what it can do.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are nice and colors are natural, which the locales, although limited in their onscreen presence, are gorgeous.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1; French DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. The dialogue comes through without any detectable flaws and the ambience is nicely created.
Making BY THE SEA (9:23): Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt and more of the cast and crew discuss the story, characters, tone, themes and more of BY THE SEA. Included are clips and on-set footage.
Gena Rowlands: An Inspiration (4:55): Jolie Pitt shares her appreciation for actress Gena Rowlands as well as the desire to share BY THE SEA with her.
Deleted Scenes (11:46): There are seven here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Roland Gets in a Fight,” “Stop It,” “Roland Returns Drunk,” “Dinner with Lea and Francois,” “A Very Special Bottle,” “What Are They Doing?” and “Maybe You Shouldn’t Write.”