Sorry, no vampires in “Tree of Life”


Movie Review: "The Tree of Life"

Written and directed by Terrence Malick

Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain

138 minutes, 2011, PG-13

I certainly agree with Ed Rampell's earlier review of  "Tree of Life" in his closing line, " filmmaking size does not fit all." The artistes and auteurs may love it, but not everybody will. My movie buddy believes in giving every film a fair chance, and she is completely intolerant of anybody who speaks during a movie, but thirty minutes into this new artsy film, she leaned over and whispered hopelessly, "Do you think there will be any vampires?"

Up to then, we had seen kaleidoscope scenes with day-glo colors and slo-mo effects to create a woozy feeling of awe. I sort of figured out that we were seeing the beginning of the cosmos, penetrated from time to time with home movie scenes from an ordinary white family in Waco, Texas. A woman narrated some of it with her views on a conflict between "nature" and "grace" with "nature" getting the short end. Philosophies and religions that denigrate human nature turn us off, but that wasn't the big problem we were having with Terrence Malick's world-hailed epic.

We knew it had won the top prize at the most prestigious film festival in the world at Cannes. We were impressed because it was showing on four screens at our 8-screen art theater. We'd already heard high praise from Malick fans and others. We both have the highest respect for director Malick and actors Sean Penn and Brad Pitt. None of those were the problem.

The problem was boredom. Gross, heavy, slow, dead, boredom. Hence my movie buddy's question about vampires. There were none, probably weren't going to be any, so we sneaked into another theater and saw "Incendies," which also didn't have any vampires but had a well-presented beginning, some action, and an ending. We both recommend it.

In the elevator afterward, I couldn't resist approaching a young woman who had just come out of the super-long "Tree of Life."

I asked, "How did it come out?"

She gave a little helpless laugh and commented, "It was the strangest movie I ever saw! I kept waiting and waiting and thinking 'maybe this is going to make sense,' but it didn't."

Photo: Cosmos


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  • It was ponderous at times, therefore imperfect, but to be so ADD as to leave the theater while watching some of the best cinematography and editing around says more about the reviewer than the movie.

    Grandiose, bombastic, boring at parts? sure.
    Stunningly crafted and thought-provoking? yup.

    It's a psychedelic movie, like Kubrick's 2001, Koyaanisqatsi or Star Trek: The Motion Picture. You drop a thousand mics of LSD then kick back and enjoy the ride without paying particular attention to the plot. Next time do it right!

    Posted by davey, 06/19/2011 1:11pm (5 years ago)

  • Vampires would have been awesome. I'm sure Malick would have made them fit somehow.

    It's an odd decision for Fox Searchlight to release this movie during the summer. It's such a "fall" or "winter" movie to me. I don't think there is much heat from Cannes that they were getting any momentum. That said, I'm sure it will be nominated for Best Picture (1 of 10!).

    Here is the best review I have seen, it's from a Finnish film reviewer attempting to write in English. Funny stuff.

    Posted by Jill Kennedy, 06/07/2011 4:34pm (5 years ago)

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