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AFI Fest: "By the Sea" Premieres

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles. I've been offline so I have to thank the team for keeping us up to date in the news. In the interest of not getting too far behind, let's talk about Thursday's opening event.

A rental car misshap nearly prevented me from attending the glitzy premiere of Mr & Mrs Pitt aka By the Sea but I made it in the nick of time. Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt manage the uncommon feat of looking as beautiful as the seaside scenery onscreen and just as beautiful offscreen. They were both glammed up like it was Oscar night in full tux & perfectly groomed hair (Brad) and shimmering form fitting white gown (Angie). Their new film is a marital vacation drama that feels like an uncomfortable fusion of three film types. The first is the enigmatic 60s Italian pictures -- think Antonioni letting Monica Vitti languidly sex up the camera and drive everyone mad while everyone forgets about the plot because "plot? --  how banal!" The second is a kind of meta-interest "vanity project" like a Burton & Taylor joint and I use the term vanity project in the most flattering way possible; no one earns vanity like the great movie stars and both Brad and Angie qualify for that designation. The third is hostile vaguely unreal marital drama erotica. In all three cases the film doesn't go nearly far enough: it needs to be more enigmatic / indifferent to the audience like L'Avventura OR more terrible and superstar campy like, say, Boom!, OR more sexually charged and surreal like maybe Eyes Wide Shut.

It's tough to imagine who the film might satisfy as its mostly inert and repetitious (not a total problem if you like art films), approaches sexually charged material rather timidly (a bigger problem), and is oddly backloaded story-wise which suddenly makes the film feel ill at ease with its languid despair at the last moment "oh, there needs to be A Story" 

But for what's it's worth it's an interesting curiousity. Along with a few truly great moments, it's fun to hear Brad Pitt speaking French and he acts drunk well.

It's interesting that Jolie  keeps challenging herself with different types of films even though she doesn't seem like a "natural" at directing, truth be told. I refuse to call her "Angelina Jolie Pitt" -- women need to stop defining themselves as belonging to a man and it's even worse when celebrities do it. Nearly all instances of famous people changing their public name for marriage end in tears and it looks sloppy on filmographies. Joanne Woodward didn't change her professional name to Joanne Newman when she married Paul and look how happy they were and remained for his whole life!

Gena Rowlands at the opening night partyAt the after party, I wasn't able to get close to Angelina or Brad and didn't spot the beautiful French stars Melanie Laurent & Melvil Poupaud (though they were at the premiere as the other couple in the film) but the most famous married movie stars in the world were real troupers hanging at the party for a good long while and speaking to well wishers in their über glamorous duds. The after party did provide one moment of pure movie bliss though: I was able to congratulate Gena Rowlands on her impending Honorary Oscar. It was brief but heavenly. She was gracious and beaming. Sasha Stone snapped the picture of this blessed moment. Thanks Sasha!

More from the AFI fest soon!

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Reader Comments (12)

Interesting review that nudges me closer to not wanting to see the movie. Glad to hear that it's ambitious and boring whereas the vibes I was getting from the trailer were more self-serious and boring.

Side note: I generally agree with your point on celebrities changing their names with marriage just because it is so confusing/flip-floppy most of the time. BUT it reads a little crass to suggest that women who change their names do so to define themselves by their man (the alternative most of the time being to define themselves by a man anyway--their fathers) and generally to suggest full stop that "women" generally need to "stop doing" something generally. Leave us alone! We make complex decisions! "We're women, our choices are never easy" (yes, I just quoted Titanic. Just rewatched it on a plane.) I know you're a feminist and women's advocate 99% of the time, so I nudge with love on this one (and of course to do so otherwise would make me the target of certain disciples out there quick to scream "over-sensitive"--aka the "polite" alternative to "feminist bitch." Our choices are never easy ;) ) kisses.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

She looks adorable!

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Angie put the camera down and strap on Lisa's blonde wig again and attitude and be dangerous again,you were more interesting then.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

I don't get Angelina's appeal. She's an unremarkable actress.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersummer

Neither do I,seems more celeb than talent alone driven.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

I like Jolie as an actress (super watchable in Mr and Mrs Smith). It's definitely decreased a little but she used to just ooze sex appeal - the high school me was in awe of her. With that said, her new film was never gonna be something I'd ever see even if it got good reviews; just not my type of film.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

catbaskets -- i see what you're saying and I agree i'm being bossy here. I just hate it. it's a pet peeve of mine. But if it isn't to define yourself by a man what is it for? I fail to see what else it could mean (unless the man also changes his name)

November 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

a few thoughts: I totally agree that men can and should be able to change their names when they marry if they so desire. Unfortunately, the social bias against doing so is intense because of that demonic accusation of being "emasculating". This needs to change. Changing one's name after a major life event can happen for a variety of reasons: for declaring a commitment or solidarity with a partner, for making a statement of identity and transition into adulthood, for marking oneself as distinct from childhood, for streamlining a public persona, for staking a claim for a family that one chooses (a partner) as opposed to a family that one is born into (which in a majority of cases follows a father's name anyway). Sometimes it's important to certain men that they keep their names. Some want their partners to take theirs. Some men and women are indifferent to the politics of surnames and are amenable to the preferences of their partners. Many same-sex couples choose one of the partner's names rather than a combination of the two or a new creation. My point is that there are often a lot of complex decision making that goes into naming oneself (and in fact making the CHOICE to do so!) at any stage of life. Fixating on what women do or don't do seems like missing the point. I'm all for encouraging/making it more socially acceptable for men to change their names too. But to do so we need to rid ourselves of the notion that the problem with women being unequal in society is because they make choices about a social formality.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

It would've been more interesting if she and Brad submitted to an auteur the way Kidman and Cruise did. But she would never give up control. I adore her, but she'll never again reach her 90s heights. Brad is the more interesting actor, especially as he ages.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBia

GENA! I love that you had that moment.

I'm glad to hear that Brad Pitt Jolie is good in this movie. One day he'll be getting that (honorary?) Oscar.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Most women who change their names do so for because of they want to have the same last name as their children and there is nothing wrong with that. Besides most celebrities actually change their last names privatelly but not publicly so they are called by their own last names when working.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChinoiserie

Nat -- about the name thing, I don't think of it as defining yourself by your man. In some regards, it helps when it comes to kids because the kids are the Jolie-Pitt brood so they get both their parents names and not just the father's and this is basically just for consistency.

Also? Probably because you love the bastard and it's a conscious and romantic choice. It's not as old school as completely giving your name away but it's a romantic notion in that yes, I choose to recognise that this bastard is a part of me now but i'm still my own person. Not the best when it comes to being a celebrity (Robin Wright Penn, Pamela Anderson Lee, etc.) but there's an active choice going on there rather than a surrender of your self. I'd add McGregor to my name if Ewan decided to take a chance on me.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

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