While working on her third film, writer-director Angelina Jolie became Angelina Jolie Pitt after she made things official with costar Brad Pitt (they famously said they wouldn’t get married until the United States legalized gay marriage, but they jumped the gun).
If her first two films revolved around war—the Bosnian War in The Land of Blood and Honey and World War II in Unbroken—the lovely, languorous By the Sea appears to be cut from a different cloth, except it’s a kind of war film, too, as a stylish couple, Roland (Pitt) and Vanessa (Jolie Pitt), find themselves at cross purposes, so they make like drifters in a Patricia Highsmith novel and travel from New York to France to start all over again.
Instead of thieving and killing—which might've been more exciting—they drink and mope until the newlyweds next door (Melvil Poupaud and Mélanie Laurent) force them to confront the tragedy that’s been tearing them apart.
The scenario isn’t without promise, and Jolie Pitt captures the sunlit glamour of French noirs like Purple Noon, but she’s miscast herself as a Catherine Deneuve type whose placid surface hides roiling emotions. Even the feint towards kink (peeping) fails to embrace the potential for Polanksi-like thrills. So it’s a misfire, but one that springs from a deeply felt place.