With both of these films’ theater runs coming to a close, Blended Opinion will let you know if either are worth seeing in the middle of Oscar season.
Suffragette is another period-piece vehicle for Carey Mulligan, who seemingly has delivered her best performances in older garb, fighting against the establishment on how ‘feminine’ a character like hers should act, and like Far from the Madding Crowd earlier this year, it’s really Mulligan that you go to see.
The plot stems from the English Women’s Suffrage Movement, that Carey Mulligan’s Maud gets caught up in. Along with other character actors from England such as Helena Bonham-Carter, Natalie Press, Anne-Marie Duff, and Romola Garai, Mulligan’s heroine begins to participate in demonstrations, spend nights in jail, and attend the speeches of the suffrage movement’s leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). Convinced that a little destruction in the name of equal rights is necessary, Maud makes enemies with local police chief Steed (Brendan Gleeson) and alienates her husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw).
The moments where Maud realizes that she is headed down a difficult path, and the resulting consequences she faces are the best pieces of this movie. The stress at home, and the nights she spends alone in an abandoned church with no place to live make the audience feel how important this concept is to her. Accented with a great score from Alexandre Desplat, the emotions that course through this difficult time make the period piece drama a bit more exciting, and because of sexism being a topic in Hollywood, this is a film that came at the right time. As for Mulligan and an Oscar nomination, she’s on the cusp, but it would be tough.
By the Sea does not encounter similar success. The third directorial feature from Angelina Jolie, her film essentially chronicles the failing marriage of her character and her real-life husband’s character played by Brad Pitt. They vacation in the South of France to help him discover material to write a new book, but he’s a little too dependent on alcohol, her on prescription medication, so their doped life-style, complemented with many fights, is changed when new honeymooning couple Melanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud move in to the room next store, and Jolie can spy on them through a tiny peep hole.
The development of the tragedy that underscores their marriage is too subtle, and often the film is too subtle for its own good. Strong scenes of dialogue feel cut short, instead replaced by long, repetitive shots of either character brooding. Even with the rare conversation with barkeep Niels Arestrup, By the Sea is too slow of a film, and its bloated running time really takes away from the enjoyable experiences. In times that they do get along, tiny things of normal marital dialogue are really interesting, displayed by the most charismatic real couple in Hollywood, but there’s just not enough here to recommend. It comes off as pretentious instead of artsy, and boring instead of dramatic.