Friday, June 17, 2011

Hail Malick, Full of Grace

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

It's not often you get to see two movies for the price of one. The Tree of Life is one of those rare and ambitious double features, bringing us one tale of a mid-century American family, and a far more abstract film featuring a shit-ton of experimental footage of volcanos, cell divisioin, underwater currents, and various other nature scenes that hint at creation.

The Tree of Life is (sort of) the story of a family with 3 boys (and their dog) in Waco, Texas. The eldest grows up to be Sean Penn, who's all kinds of bitter about his stifling disciplinarian father and free spirit mother. Mr. O'Brien (played by a most effective Brad Pitt, although Heath Ledger was originally attached to star) mesmerizes as the frustrated and oppressive father, alternately thrilling and horrifying. Mrs. O'Brien (played by the ethereal Jessica Chastain) floats through the movie, quite literally, like an angel.

My biggest beef is the insertion of 20 long minutes of nature-based creationist footage stuffed into an already non-linear narrative. But there's a reason I'm a stay-at-home beagle and not a fancy Hollywood director. Leave it to Terrence Malick to blow my mind and leave me begging for more. Dropping an extended nature montage into a movie with an already shaky space/time continuum takes a big pair of stones. Terrence Malick has 'em without question.

Weird aside: Mr. Malick actually had the cojones to send out specific projection instructions with every copy of his film, insisting that every mall-dwelling, minimum-wage earning, pimple-faced teenage projectionist follow his guidelines exactly. (crap like "Proper standard (5400 Kelvin)” and “foot Lambert level is at Standard 14.” Huh?)

Summary: Love it or be totally confused by it, but at least admit it's important.

4/5 wags

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