Angelina Jolie Pitt’s ‘By the Sea’ Aiming at Art, Not Oscar

By the Sea trailer
Courtesy of Universal

Angelina Jolie Pitt’s “By the Sea” is a heartfelt, physically beautiful film which proves that “slow-moving” can be a positive, not a negative. But it’s dubious whether all the film’s quiet virtues can translate into year-end awards.

For better or worse, any movie that opens in the fourth quarter, or that is booked during a major film festival, gets scrutiny for its Academy Awards potential. But “By the Sea” seems the opposite of “Oscar bait.” Jolie Pitt wrote, directed, produced (with Brad Pitt) and stars in a tale about a couple on vacation who are going through a difficult period, as one of the onscreen characters observes.

The movie had its world premiere Nov. 5, opening the AFI Fest in Hollywood. According to the program, “The film is inspired by European cinema and theatre of the 1960s and 1970s.” In introductory remarks at the TCL Chinese Theatre, Jolie Pitt said it’s about grief and learning to move past it. Clearly, a project like this is not an easy sell, and the thoughtful pacing (which spotlights little moments and details, often with minimal dialogue) seems a deliberate antidote to the current fashion of fast-paced films.

After the premiere, one partygoer said, “Good for her, she got this movie made.” Yes, absolutely good for her. But awards voters may feel that’s reward enough.

People will love or hate the film, but it does exactly what it set out to do. All the work is commendable, including the performances by the two leads, cinematography by Christian Berger, costume design by Ellen Mirojnick and music by Gabriel Yared. The film will be released by Universal this month.

It’s Jolie’s third feature as director and follows last year’s “Unbroken,” which earned $161 million worldwide.