Screening Room: ‘By the Sea’

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in 'By the Sea' (Universal Pictures)
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in ‘By the Sea’ (Universal Pictures)

Set in the 1970s, By the Sea stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as a couple traveling through France as their relationship nears collapse.

bythesea-posterWritten and directed by Jolie, By the Sea opened this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

A divertingly gorgeous mediocrity, By the Sea arrives onscreen pushing a trainload of expectations ahead of itself. After Angelina Jolie Pitt’s little-seen In the Land of Blood and Honey and last year’s Unbroken, this stands as her first broad test of her abilities as a writer-director. Unlike those war dramas, this chamber piece has no historical resonance or book-club fans to fall back on. There’s just a hotel room, some pretty scenery, and a couple whose marriage is disintegrating. Add to that a stealthy ad campaign, a vague trailer hinting at 1970s Bertolucci-like decadence, and the first pairing of Jolie and her now-husband Brad Pitt since they played another warring couple in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and you have a movie almost guaranteed to attract all the wrong kinds of attention…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Unbroken’

Jack O'Connell faces down a sadistic prison guard in 'Unbroken' (Universal Pictures)
Jack O’Connell faces down a sadistic prison guard in ‘Unbroken’ (Universal Pictures)

unbroken-coverLaura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken has been sitting atop the bestseller lists for close to 200 weeks now, which is no surprise, given its incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, who went from a record-breaking performance running in the 1936 Berlin Olympics to being a brutalized Japanese prisoner of war. Angelina Jolie’s (yes, she directed) take on the book is respectful and professionally done, but never quite gets at what made Zamperini such a survivor.

Unbroken opened wide on Christmas Day. My review is at Film Racket:

If one learns anything from a handsomely-told World War II survival fable like Unbroken, it’s that if you are marooned at sea for weeks and then tossed into a brutal prison camp, it’s best to do so with an Olympic runner by your side…

Here’s the trailer: