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

The Dream Is Real

For my money there is nothing cooler than the idea of a city folding in on itself.

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 …

Ant-man Finally Casted?

It looks like Nathan Fillion might be playing a superhero afterall. After being considered for roles in Green Lantern, and Captain America,Fillion (most remembered as Malcolm Reynolds in the cult-hit Firefly) is reportedly in final negotiations to play Dr. Hank Pym in the new Avengers film. It hasn't been stated whether Pym would be Ant-man in the film, or just a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist, but we're holding out hope.

The Avengers hits theatres in 2012.