Thursday 31 Jul

Escape from Tomorrow

With Escape from Tomorrow, one fears the story behind the movie would loom larger than the movie itself. Luckily, that is not the case. After all, it opens with a decapitation on Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster.
05/06/2014 | Comments 0


William Friedkin spends a lot of time in his 2013 memoir discussing why Sorcerer didn't click with critics and audiences even though he believes it to be better than his previous film, The Exorcist. Now that Warner Home Video has reissued Sorcerer on Blu-ray, we can see what Friedkin's fuss is all about.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season

Welcome to the coastal resort of Broadchurch, population … oh, who can keep track, what will all the corpses? Yes, Broadchurch is yet another British television procedural involving the search for a murderer in a quaint little town, just like the limited series The Fall and Top of the Lake.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Essentially part five in the ridiculously profitable horror franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones continues the found-footage conceit of the other films. The difference is instead of the scares taking place in rich white suburbia, they do so in a junky apartment complex on a largely Latino side of Oxnard, Calif.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Holy Ghost People

Holy Ghost People examines two sisters whose bond is torn — but by what? After her sibling has been missing for more than a year, Charlotte (Emma Greenwell, TV's Shameless) intends to find out.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Drama · The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ is destined to frustrate and bewilder — in a word, it’s amazing.

Phil Bacharach June 22nd, 2011

For a vast understatement, let’s say “The Tree of Life” is an atypical summer movie.

The latest work from notoriously deliberative writer/director Terrence Malick (“The New World”) is, by turns, ambitious and audacious, bold and bewildering.

Not many pictures are so adventurous, pretentious and/or flatout ballsy — take your pick — as to interrupt its principal story to reveal the origin of the cosmos, but “Tree” does just that. It is an art film that boasts dinosaurs and a coming-of-age drama with more questions than final-reel epiphanies. It is “2001” with a Texas twang. It is, in a word, amazing.

That doesn’t mean Malick’s fifth feature in four decades is for everyone. This is the sort of movie about which my 81-year-old mother likes to say felt like it lasted for eight hours. Opening Friday, “Tree” took top honors at the Cannes Film Festival, but it drew as many boos as cheers.

Its pretentiousness is breathtaking.

In centering on an ostensibly unremarkable Texas family in the 1950s, Malick probes the mysteries of the universe, questions about God and virtue, and the interconnectedness of all life. That’s heady stuff, all right, preordained to divide audiences.

Newcomer Hunter McCracken is tremendous as 11-year-old Jack. Growing up in Eisenhower-era Waco, he and his two younger brothers do dumb-kid stuff as they orbit around the disparate worlds of their parents.

Their father (Brad Pitt, ”Inglourious Basterds,”), a middle-class salesman bitter from dreams unfulfilled, cautions his sons, “If you want to succeed, you can’t be too good.” Chafing from their dad’s explosive temper, the boys find solace with their quietly suffering mother (Jessica Chastain, “Jolene”).

The story is driven by images and impressions, not plot. Jack and his siblings increasingly are caught between their parents, or the dueling polarities of Nature and Grace, as the film spells out in the opening minutes.

Malick, who grew up in Texas and Bartlesville, fashions a mosaic of nonlinear imagery both real and imagines, shuttling between Sean Penn (“Fair Game”) as grown-up Jack, now a Houston architect, and the fragmented remembrances of a childhood steeped in the requisite joys, sorrows and casual cruelties. In so doing, “Tree” captures something fundamental and almost mystical about memory.

Lyrical and overflowing with sumptuous visuals, “The Tree of Life” unfolds as a sort of cinematic poem. The production is flawless, from Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful score to the dazzling work of cinematographer Emmanel Lubezki.

Taken as a whole, it is provocative and sprawling enough to invite a spectrum of interpretations, at least until a final sequence that owes more than a bit to European art-house films of the 1960s.

But let’s not nitpick. “The Tree of Life” is destined to be sliced and diced in film classes around the country for years to come. Better yet, experience it yourself — on the largest screen possible.

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06.23.2011 at 06:03 Reply

Excited to see it. It's taken far too long to get here, but "The Tree of Life" will open in Oklahoma City tomorrow in Quail Springs.