By the Sea

During the Watergate era, a creatively blocked American novelist (Brad Pitt) and his wife (Angelina Jolie) arrive at a French seaside resort, where she mopes around modeling broad-brimmed hats and designer sunglasses and he favors white linen, nurses a glass of whiskey, and says things like “We can be happy, you know.” Trouble looms when she discovers a peephole in their wall that allows her to spy on the frisky young couple in the next room (Mélanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud). Jolie directed her own script, aiming for an arid Antonioni vibe; her oblique treatment of the marriage doesn’t begin to give until very late in the story, and even then the couple’s deep, dark secret seems canned. Pitt invests the vague, cranky relationship with his usual intelligence and restraint, but the movie is destined to rank with such celebrity-couple fiascos as Gigli (2003) and Shanghai Surprise (1986). With Niels Arestrup.