Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tree of Life

Or more appropriately, "The Tree of Slow Death". Director Terrence Malick has made only a handful of films over his career and every one is a visual masterpiece. "The Tree of Life" is no exception. It is beautiful to watch but I was bored beyond belief trying to decipher his message.

The film has little dialogue, and what little there is exists as voiceovers to the exquisite visuals. On the surface, the plot revolves around Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain as a couple raising their three young sons in '50's Waco Texas. We learn early in the film that the middle son dies and then we are temporarily transported back to the dawn of creation as interpreted by Terrence Malik. After about 20 minutes of this highlight mind-blowing sequence, we return without explanation to the family.

Sean Penn turns up in the modern day sequences apparently as the oldest son now grown to adulthood but tortured by his past. At least that's the impression we get, in a role that is basically a cameo. The oldest son, Jack, as a boy is played by Hunter McCracken and he is a standout who holds his own in his scenes with Brad Pitt.

Mr. Malick likes to tell his stories visually and while they are a treat, many of the visuals are repeated to the point of exhaustion. You can view this film as pretentious or as a masterpiece but either way, you will be talking about it long after it ends...if you stayed awake.

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