Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Videovangaurd reviews the Palm D'or winner at Cannes 2011. "The Tree of Life".

The Tree Of Life

Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn

Writer and Director: Terrence Malick

** and 1/2 *'s out of four.

                                               (Theatrical Poster)

"The Tree Of Life" is not a movie that can be easily reviewed. In fact I could watch this movie another five times, and I still would not be able to come up with a single idea of what it is really about.  It's a very beautiful movie to look at, but since it doesn't have a concise story line.  It's really difficult to understand what theme or message Terrence Malick is trying to show. This is the kind of movie I can understand why a lot of other critics really love it, but at the same time I understand fully why others would hate it. Both view points would be correct so it's really difficult to say one side's opinion is better than the others. I will say safely that "The Tree Of Life is the kind of movie you go to experience, not enjoy. I know we are used to the idea of movies being an escape from our reality, but this is not that type of movie. This is more of a visual poem than a story, and much like a poem it can be open to your own interpretation.

The main story in this film centers around three boys who are being raised by two different parents in Texas in the mid 50s. The Mother(Jessica Chastain) is a free spirited woman who encourages the boy to be playful and creative. The Father(Brad Pitt) is more strict and  tries to instill in his boys a sense of strong will and confidence. He does this by getting his sons to hit him even though they don't want to. I could tell the boys are having a hard time deciding on which parent they want to model the rest of their lives on and that internal struggle is the big plot point of this movie. There is a quote at the beginning that says your life can go only two ways. One is by nature, the other is by grace. In nature man is best known to have violent tendencies if he is meant to survive, but without any grace or love in his life what is he trying to survive for. Now you may have a completely different take on this film, but this is just my interpretation of the story.

                    (Photo:  Fox Searchlight Pictures)

I remember as a kid being mesmerized by "Fantasia" when I watched it in the theater for the first time. Even though there was no real concise plot(except for the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" section) I was still highly amazed by all the visuals that were going on. That is basically how I felt when watching this.  Because the visuals are just so impressive.  Emmanuel Lubezki should be nominated for best cinematography because it is just beautiful to look at. The Camera is constantly moving almost like it's dancing around these beautiful images. The actors all do a great job with their parts,but the one that stands out the most is Hunter McCraken. He plays the younger version of Jack(Sean Penn) and I was impress to find out this was his first role. If he is serious with his acting career he could go pretty far with it.

In closing I would have to say that I am stuck in the middle with this one. I didn't fully hate it, but I didn't fully love it either. I appreciate filmmakers such as Malick presenting audiences with a different type of movie than we are normally accustom to. However without strong characters and a story, it's difficult to become emotionally involved with it. And it's the emotions that really help make us identify with a movie.