via Universal

A self-indulgent vanity project pretentiously pleasures itself on the streaming Top 10

How much ego-stroking can one film possibly hope to accomplish?

The lines between a passion project and an exercise in navel-gazing vanity are indescribably thin, but there’s no doubt as to which side of the fence 2015’s self-indulgent and ponderous By the Sea landed on.

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Having established herself as a director to watch through a pair of solid features via In the Land of Blood and Honey and Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s third stint behind the camera was a misfire of colossal proportions. Attempting to blur the lines between art, life, fiction, reality, and romantic fantasy, the interminable ego-stroker landed with a thud.

Written, directed, produced by, and starring Jolie alongside then-husband Brad Pitt, By the Sea finds an American couple trying to enjoy a serene getaway at an idyllic French seaside resort, where they begin befriending and obsessing over the locals while simultaneously trying to paper over the cracks in their fracturing marriage.

via Universal

The $10 million slice of avant-garde pretentiousness could only scrape together $3 million at the box office, with respective Rotten Tomatoes scores of 35 and 28 percent from critics and audiences indicating that nobody was all that interested in seeing the Jolie-Pitts wear their hearts on their cinematic sleeves.

And yet, because big names can always do big numbers on streaming, By the Sea has been riding a surprise second wave of momentum on streaming. Per FlixPatrol, the A-listers joining forces to work through their issues has become a Top 10 hit on HBO Max in 19 countries, although we’re struggling to imagine it gaining anything remotely resembling cult classic or underrated gem status.

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Scott Campbell
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