October 4, 2011

The Tree of Life (2011)

Here is what is an essentially coming-of-age/loss-of-innocence formula, that Malick attempts to turn into something bigger than it really is. Evoking (through imagery, narration and soundtrack) both spiritual and metaphysical aspects of the world and of life. Unfortunately, wrapping the central story in experimental imagery and CG dinosaurs with a sprinkle of a depressed Sean Penn isn’t enough to turn this slower, poorer version of Stand by Me into the next Space Odyssey (to which reviews often draw parallels for some reason). Don’t get me wrong, I love Malick’s work, mostly from Days of Heaven onwards, but unfortunately this one is uneven and overly long considering the subject matter. It has all the Malick signature moves like the rustling grass and insect sounds and wind, but unfortunately it doesn’t manage to captivate the viewer as much as his previous work. Some reason for this might be that not many can relate to growing up in 1950’s Texas like Malick, or perhaps it is due to the religious undertones that by now seem outdated and preachy. There are many great feelings that this film evokes, particularly the ones triggered by Malick’s skillful portrayal of nature and landscapes, but ultimately, the so called plot falls flat, with the only redeeming factor (other than Malick’s direction) is Pitt’s performance, with the rest (including, unfortunately Hunter McCracken, the main child protagonist) being largely typecast. While not a perfect film, I am still anxious to see the next project to come from Malick, which will hopefully balance his repertoire of great work.