The Stevil Dead on Movies – By The Sea

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For the final acting performance of her career, Angelina Jolie (who now goes by Angelina Jolie-Pitt) decided to star in something she put together entirely herself; taking both directing and writing credit, and appears on screen alongside husband Brad Pitt. Filmed entirely in the south of France in one picturesque location, it’s also interesting to note that this movie was made on the two stars’ honeymoon. It must be why the film only seems to be accessible to the people who made it. That may be a confusing statement to some but I will explain.

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The film takes place in the 1970s and follows Roland (Pitt) and Vanessa (Jolie-Pitt), a married couple who go to a beautiful and remote hotel right on the ocean. Roland is a writer looking to get past the issue that pesters many writers: the block of ideas. He hopes that a change of scenery will do something to open his mind. He also has a deep down want to try to repair the rift between him and his wife as there is an obvious issue plaguing their relationship.

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Within the first few days, things are not progressing well. Roland spends his time at the local bar drinking his days away and not being able to write while Vanessa spends her days in the hotel room, occasionally going into the village for groceries. Roland stumbles in every night to pass out drunkenly in the bed and the two never share more than a few words. This makes the films mood contrast darkly against the beautiful backdrop.

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Things change for Vanessa’s day to day when a newlywed couple occupies the room next door. She acts very standoffish towards the young lovebirds at first, exhibiting some obvious jealousy. She begins to take more of an voyeuristic interest in them when she discovers a pipe on the wall of her room that looks directly into their bedroom. This curious act seems to open her up a little bit to Roland but is it a good thing or will it lead to more explosive issues?

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The movie seems to hinge on this large wedge between Roland and Vanessa, which it constantly hints at for the duration of the film before Vanessa is forced to finally discuss it. For the audience, it feels almost maddening that the storyteller would hold this seemingly important information back and the only conclusion we can derive from this is, well, it must be very pivotal to everything going on. I’m sad to say that, for me, the reveal is very flat and means nothing by the time it’s brought to light.

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Going back to my original statement about the accessibility of this film, I felt this movies only goal was to be a catharsis for Angelina Jolie to put a cap on her acting career and usher in her full time director career with what seems to be an incredibly personal project. Over the rest of the day following my screening of this film, I began to think it was more than just a professional catharsis.

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Over the last couple years, Jolie has gone through a double mastectomy and had her ovaries removed for cancer prevention reasons. This would without a doubt have shaken anyone to their core, which most likely led to Jolie penning this screenplay exploring the dourness of emotional struggle within an aging marriage versus the excitement of new love. For the two to make this project during a time when they were celebrating their own union makes it more meaningful for them more than any bad review of it could take away, and believe me, there are a lot of bad reviews.

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I have to be direct about this, I have no idea who the target market is for this one. If you are intrigued by “Brangelina” then you may feel a little bit of insight into who the couple are by this passion project but most of all you’ll be confused to what it was going for as you deal with the depression the over two hour film leaves on you. Using Michael Haneke’s cinematographer Christian Berger, the film looks incredible but Jolie is still needing a boost to make her storytelling compelling, as I felt myself checking my watch pretty often. Although this will occupy a “Just Married” spot on the mantle of the Jolie-Pitt film, which I can appreciate, unfortunately this film left little to be desired. This one is a two out of five.

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Steve Stebbing

About Steve Stebbing

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Steve is an avid lover of all things film and enjoys talking about it, as well as comics and more. Steve also joins the DrexLive show every Thursday at 9pm PST on CKNW.com