The "Tree of Life" Starring Sean Penn & Brad Pitt, well starring in the loosest sense of the word, is a strange exercise at jerking off into the camera. Terrance Malick wishes he was Stanley Kubrick, Darren Aronofsky, or a David Attenborough nature documentary but he isn't. He's just a jumbled mess of ideas too afraid of a real story because of his 'reputation' as an 'artist' that he feels he needs to play around instead of directing a well structured well thought out film.
The trailer teases us with the idea that the film has a plot or a structure. Even as loose as it seems. And the poster teases us that the film will be an experience you may never forget...but 5 minutes after I left the film I felt myself struggling to remember one worthwhile moment. And as original as the cinematography me seem any cinefile can pick out that every ham handed sequence is an homage to Stanley Kubrick's "2001:A Space Odyssey", Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" (which I realize uses techniques from 2001) and Koyanisquatsi. If you've seen those films & loved all of them; you'll still probably hate this one. Why...? Because "The Tree of Life" doesn't do what it tries any differently or better than the 3. And it doesn't even have the best parts of the 3 at all. And part of the film (& I use the term 'film' loosely) remind me of "Enter the Void" how light floats into light...it's all very interesting...when it's suppose to have a purpose.
Reviewing this film is like reviewing a painting that's just one shade of blue. The film is an unstructured mess, with little to no dialog & a sporadic voice over that feels like desperate poetry with no rhyming words. It's as if Malick is afraid to have dialog. Like the characters are all supposed to relatable everyman types and the most baroque arch types imaginable; angsty children, aggressive fathers, sweet mothers, all existing in a poorly thought out tableau of the 1950's. The beauty shots of nature are couple with opera as if we need something to accent what already looks good in the first place or as if he saw it in 2001 and knew it worked and thought no body would notice. I enjoy nature documentaries, films that bridge time barriers, films with meditative moments, & films about the 1950's. This is the worst of all of them.
The opening of the film I can't really remember well. I'm being honest in the mess of images crammed into the screen I cannot recall the first one.
Okay trying to figure this out..........the opening introduces some young boys 3, one of them dies, we don't know why. Pretty shots of flowers, grass, clouds and stuff.
The cinematographer and sound design team were robbed. Had they been working with a director who knew what he wanted "The Tree of Life" could have been an experience unmatched by most films. But the film and talent behind it where a waste. Brad Pitt is underused and Sean Penn isn't even in the film. Yes he's their sitting down. But he does nothing. Not that his character is pointless it's literally just their. He's probably in less than 4 minutes of the entire film. The trailer lies. It isn't a film about a father in 50's it's Malik playing around with pretty images and loose fitting stories. Without further stalling for time...
(Now I remember)
The film opens with a quote from the book of Job...now we know we're in trouble.
* The film opens with some pretty shots and the death of one of Brad Pitt's 3 sons. We don't know how he died but we assume it will be revealed later in the film. We just hear whispering voice over and see Brad Pitt cry.
* Then we flash forward to apparently Brad Pitt's eldest son in the future, played by Sean Penn...he's sad, he needs a sandwich and a hug. That's what we've established. And that his father's still alive cause we hear him talking on the phone, we're not sure why.
(The best part of the movie) *A long sequence of stars, lights, explosions, volcanos, nature, and what appears to be the director trying to show us how the earth was created. And then it ends with some dinosaurs. (Not well animated and in environments that are from modern times, so really out of place and poorly thought out, but fun to watch.)
*Then it cuts back to Sean Penn and we establish that he's working on something...I guess they never explain what it is really.
*The boy's grow up...one of them is born and plays around as a baby with bugs and his mother.
*Brad Pitt is a fierce agressive statuesque image of a 1950's struggling businessman father trying to teach his sons everything he knows about his way of life. Brad is good as a dad, he plays one well and you can see the love in his eyes even though his eldest son doesn't seem too and regrets him.
*The son dies (I won't reveal how) And it is sad. The eldest brother who was already resentful and angry since his brothers birth now turns aggressive and angst filled. He lashes out at his father, teases and picks on his younger brother and plays around with riff raff that do what boys do, play with fire works and throw rocks at houses.
*He hurts his brother and seems to spiral into that cold level of madness that pre-teens get into that if they hear their parents argue one more time they'll run away.
*The father gets very aggressive punishes the kids and tries to hit one.
*A montage that reminds us he's a good guy of him playing with his sons, voiced over by the eldest one who apparently hates him...the way a child would conceive hate I'm sure.
*The father goes off to work
*They are raised by their mom for a while, they play around then the eldest son lashes out at her, steals something of hers and is very mean to her saying cruel things about how she lets her husband (his father) walk over her so why can't he. Typical things children from broken homes wonder that I've experienced and don't care to see on film.
* more angst stuff happens
* Crazy beach sequence some beach that's supposed to be heaven apparently or something has a bunch of people their including Brad Pitt and the older version of his son for some reason. (This is the point in the film where I kept going...what, if he's in heaven did we even see him die, it's just a beach...what's so special about it, why is the mom whispering about the meaning of life...what's the point of this sequence)
*then the movie ended...after the parents move away cause the dad lost his job. (oh forgot to mention the Dad has patents for machines and wants to be rich, we don't know why or what the machines are but he talks about them, and works at a plant, I don't know what the plant does, so eventually he gets downsized and moves away.)
*The end...and I couldn't have ran out of the theatre faster.
(If I missed something I'm sorry but the film was such a mess of images I'm sure I did. Oh the film is bridged with this shot of light...kind of looks like the reflection on a nightlight in the film but purple.*)
(If you're wondering why this review did the lame thing of bullet pointing the plot moments of the film it's because that's how the film is structured.)
-The film will say is genuine. I'm sure Malick thought he was doing something special and never seen before.
. . . Okay this conversation sums up my review. . . (And I kept typos and poor sentences in this review because their are mistakes in structure like this in the film (actually I'm just kidding I'm being lazy, you know a loose structure...just like the film has)...yes mistakes...there is a dinosaur walking around a river bank, behaving more like a person than an animal & the river bank has rocks on it that are washed smooth and clean and their aren't any large plants or weather that would have been around during dinosaur times. It's just a regular river they shot as a clean plate and animated animals by it. And as I say below; soap, appliances, and light switches in a 50's home that look to my eye as modern as ever...even though they might not be. It threw me out of the film.)