Skip to main content

Review: Tree of Life


After what seemed like an eternity to fans of Terrence Malick's filmography, Tree of Life made its debut at Cannes. Responses to the film were varied and lines were drawn in the sand. Terrence Malick tends to have that reaction on people. From Badlands to The New World, the atmospheric flourishes and strokes that Malick uses to paint his stories quite often alienate viewers. Common narratives are often ignored in favor of sweeping shots of the world around the characters and ethereal voice overs that convey the thoughts, hopes and dreams of those we watch onscreen.

Mr. O'Brien and Mrs. O'Brien offer contrasting lifestyles to their three children: the way of force and the way of grace. The patron O'Brien knows what little this life gives, it has to be hard-earned, or taken. Regret has colored Mr. O'Brien's life by his passions that have languished and he needs to make that impact felt for his three sons. Life is not to be frivolously spent and Brad Pitt's evenhanded approach to the patriarch is one of the major strengths of a film that feels disjointed. Jessica Chastain similarly presents a strong foil to her domineering husband.

Mrs. O'Brien suggests there has to be a different way: nurture. Throughout the majority of Tree of Life, Jack is adapting to the world he finds himself in. He rails against his father, yet when given time to flourish in his absence, Jack instead revels in the violence that his mother objects to. Torn between two worlds, Jack struggles to find himself.

For all of the beauty present in the shots of Earth in its adolescence, Malick loses focus in what is really the core of Tree of Life: family. The trials and tribulations as Jack goes from wayward youth to lost adult (Sean Penn) should be the highlight, but it is shifted from so frequently that the story has no time to lay down its roots. Without a doubt these renderings of space and primordial Earth are breathtakingly captured by Emmanuel Lubezki. Few scenes in cinematic history are as beautiful as these. Yet, the loose connection to the dichotomy that is Jack's childhood detracts from the ultimate effort.

The depiction of small-town life in Texas is something that Malick has done before and does well. When he focuses on that subject he excels. To argue that Terrence Malick only focus on minute details is not a realistic expectation as he is one of the few auteurs that always has a larger focus. Frustratingly, this results in a film that is both wonderful and messy.

**1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Herman Melville and Office Space

Just from gleaning the surface of Office Space one would assume that there isn't anything simmering below the surface except for a raunchy work-comedy, but they would be wrong.
After the harsh critical reception of his greatest work Moby Dick Melville wrote a collection of short stories called Bartleby and Benito Cereno perhaps the greatest slam at the time against industrial America. Bartleby is the story of a Wall Street copyist who has his three employees proof-read and copy law forms. Shortly into the story Bartleby starts responding to work commands with, "I would prefer not to." Frustrated by his employee's subordination the Narrator tries to have him fired but Bartleby refuses to leave the office. The Narrator comes back the following morning to find Bartleby living inside his office. Bartleby becomes increasingly less apt to perform basic functions as eating after he is jailed for trespassing and dies in a jail cell. What at once starts out as a comedy has …

Paprika vs. Inception

Months before Inception hit the theaters forums were alive with rumors that Christopher Nolan either accidentally or intentionally stole some details from another film, the Japanese anime Paprika. The biggest point of comparison for some bloggers and forum runners was the fact that both of the films featured a device that allowed a person, or people, to travel into another’s dreams and delve into their subconscious.
Minor points of comparison include scenes in Paprika where the character Paprika breaks through a mirrored wall by holding her hand to it, as well as a scene where a police detective falls his way down a hallway. Claims have been made that Inception abounds with imagery similar to or exactly like the anime movie, but with the recent release of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, and with Paprika available for several years now, an examination of the two plots can be made more fully.
Let us begin with the primary claim—Inception stole the idea of a dream machine from Paprika. It …

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare Giveaway

We’re not playing the game, it’s playing us! A harmless game of "Truth or Dare" among friends turns deadly when someone--or something--begins to punish those who tell a lie--or refuse the dare. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, opening in theaters Friday the 13th! To celebrate the release of this terrifying new film we have a Truth or Dare giveaway for readers. Play the app below with a friend and take the Truth or Dare challenge to see who survives. To enter, tag a friend you'd bring along to the film to @wordsbycbiggs on Twitter and use the #TruthOrDareMovie hashtag. One lucky winner will receive a prize pack, which includes: 1 - Limited Edition Truth or Dare Card Game: This limited edition Truth or Dare Game is only available via this promotion and has a run of 200 pieces worldwide. It has a card deck featuring dares and the creepy crawly items you need to satisfy the dares in the deck. Test your resolve… The truth will set you free! 1 - Truth or Dare Official Promo Tank - O…