Cinema Review: By the Sea


At the end of The Hours (2002), when Our Nicole, as Virginia Woolf, walked into the River Ouse with her pockets full of stones to make her sink, I’m afraid I was barracking for the river. Similarly, only halfway through what is a lay-down misere contender for most boring movie of the year, my hopes rose – inordinately but forlornly – when the wan and ever so sad Vanessa (Angelina Jolie) was seen wandering lonely as an over-acting actress above a sandstone cliff on the coast of Provence. She might have put us all out of our misery there and then, but no, she turned back for yet another vin blanc with her tosspot hubby, Roland (Brad Pitt). The couple had driven to a picture-postcard French village and taken a gorgeous suite in a Belle Époque hotel overlooking the Mediterranean. Roland, a once-was famous writer, has hit the turps and is hoping to resurrect his career. Vanessa is disappointed by life (poor thing).

Their relationship sways between spiteful and pitiful, those moods emphasised by close-ups of Vanessa’s Michelin-tyre lips and heavily made-up eyes. A pair of honeymooners (Melvil Poupaud and Mélanie Laurent) move in next door and Vanessa and Roland take to spying on them through a hole in their shared wall. Apart from the fact that it seems an extremely tacky thing for any protagonists to do, it is, given that the hole is about the size of a tennis ball, idiotic to think that the young French couple were never aware of it – I guess director/writer Ange was script editor, too. The location is attractive, but the period of the mid-seventies is never surely established – too often it feels like an attempt at creating the earlier atmos of Ernie, Scotty and Zelda. Fine contributions from Laurent and Niels Arestrup as the avuncular hotel manager are nowhere near enough to lift the relentless dismalness and risible dialogue. And as for Brad mounting Ange in the bath with his pants on – sex never looked less appealing.

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