NEW YORK • Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have appeared on screen together for the first time in 10 years in By The Sea, but Hollywood's leading power couple last Friday got scathing early reviews for the movie, which some deemed a laborious vanity project.
The film was written and directed by Jolie, inspired by the grief she experienced over the death in 2007 of her mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand.
Set in a quiet seaside town in France, the movie is inspired by the deliberately paced European art films of the 1960s and 1970s, and tells the story of the imploding marriage of an American couple, depressed former dancer Vanessa (played by Jolie) and blocked novelist Roland ( Pitt).
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy called it "the kind of vanity project you don't see much of anymore". He wrote that it was a languid attempt at European arthouse cinema that "will prove once again that even the biggest names in the world won't draw an audience to something that, in and of itself, has no reason for being".
The 132-minute film opens in the United States on Friday. The last time the two were a reel-life couple was in the flirty 2005 action comedy Mr & Mrs Smith, which brought them together in real life.
By The Sea, Jolie's third time directing, could hardly be more different.
Alonso Duralde of TheWrap.com bemoaned the movie's "dreary scenes from a dull marriage", adding that it was hard "watching these two talented actors play blanks who have no chemistry with each other".
Critics praised the cinematography but said the stunning visuals failed to make up for a weak script and a plot where nothing much happens.
Scott Mendelson at Forbes website admired the film more than he enjoyed it and said it may appeal to fans of talky, beautiful to look at foreign movies.
"For anyone else, it will probably come off like a feature-length perfume commercial punctuated by outbursts of emotion and light kink."
Fred Topel of Nerd Report website was kinder than most of the early reviewers last Friday. "Any time you get to see a film-maker's soul on display, if that doesn't intrigue you enough for two hours, you're missing out," he wrote.
But Variety's Justin Chang called the movie "an unabashed vanity project" that is "meandering and overlong in ways that will test the patience of even die-hard Brangelina fans".