‘By the Sea’ Sinks With Critics: Read Early Reviews of ‘Ponderous’ Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt Drama

“Not much happens. In fact, hardly any words are exchanged by the bickering pair over the course the film’s (at times grueling) 132 minutes,” the Guardian’s critic writes

Brad Pitt Angelina Jolie By The Sea

Angelina Jolie‘s “By The Sea” premiered at AFI Fest on Thursday night, and the critics who attended the screening weren’t very kind.

Out of seven reviews counted so far on Rotten Tomatoes, only two deemed the filmmaker’s relationship drama co-starring her real-life husband Brad Pitt as “fresh.”

TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde was among the lucky few — or perhaps, unlucky, depending on who you ask — to have the opportunity to sit through the film Jolie wrote and directed.

“If ‘By the Sea’ weren’t so aggressively humorless, it might almost qualify as camp, so unsuccessful is its pursuit of weighty drama. Unintentional laughs are hard to come by here; instead, there are yawns aplenty,” he wrote in his review.

Another critic described the story chronicling a distant couple’s vacation in France as “a vanity project that’s difficult to love.” Other complaints include a bland script, “slow character moments,” a “grueling” running time.

The rotten reaction to the first screening could be troubling for Universal Pictures, which is launching the $10 million film in the U.S. with a limited release on Nov. 13 in hopes of sparking positive word of mouth from audiences and critics, alike.

Perhaps more people will fall for Jolie’s depiction of a couple falling out of love when it hits theaters, but until then, here are the rocky reviews that are available.

Nigel M. Smith, The Guardian:

“Only a star of Angelina Jolie Pitt’s immense clout could get a film like ‘By the Sea’ made. Her third film as director is essentially a chamber piece starring her and her husband Brad Pitt as a very unhappily married couple. Not much happens. In fact, hardly any words are exchanged by the bickering pair over the course the film’s (at times grueling) 132 minutes.”

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily International:

“‘By The Sea’ incorporates a measured, insular tone to examine the quiet disintegration of a long-term married couple, and while there are some fleeting pleasures in watching an A-list star use her clout to produce what is, essentially, an intimate art-house film for a major studio, it’s a pity that she can’t wring deeper insights or greater drama from the material.”

Katie Walsh, Indiewire:

“Not all of the pieces quite fit together. The script is often painfully obvious, having characters speak subtext out loud, with lines such as, ‘good woman? Have I become that dull?’ and ‘now my outsides match my insides,’ that are far too on-the-nose. This culminates in a climax that speaks aloud their dark secret, one that was far more interesting when it was just ambiguous. There are also moments when it’s hard to entirely buy Roland. He’s the drunken scamp with a loyal heart of gold, and that’s just too good to be true. There are a few funny lines, and moments of clarity, but the script is definitely the weak link here. For a film that looks and feels as avant-garde as it does, the script doesn’t put enough faith in the audience to accept ambiguity or pick up underlying meanings.”

Scott Mendelson, Forbes:

“‘By the Sea’ feels like a film school project writ-large. The assignment: Make a film that feels and plays like a distinctly European character drama that defined the so-called New Wave films back in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Angelina Jolie Pitt’s third directorial effort, following ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ and ‘Unbroken,’ is something of a pitch-perfect recreation of something like ‘L’Aventura.’ If you are among those who actually went to film school, this is the kind of film you’d have to watch and write about at length for as part of your final exam. In that sense, it’s relatively successful. Also written by its director, it is kind of film that people who claim to hate foreign films think of to explain why they hate foreign films. It’s slow, ponderous, talky, and mostly about tiny details and minute character moments. It’s such a loving recreation of the form that it occasionally flirts with self-parody. For those who know what they are getting into and actually crave this kind of cinematic experience, I heartily recommend it. But for anyone else, it will probably come off like a feature-length perfume commercial punctuated by outbursts of emotion and light kink.”