To The Wonder Review
I think over this very long weekend coming up, I am going to see if I can find "The Thin Red Line," "Badlands," "The New World," and "Days of Heaven." What all of these films have in common is they are all directed by Terrance Malick. From what I have read over the years, Terrance Malick is on par with Spielberg, Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Hitchcock, Coppola, Kubrick and Fincher as far as great filmmakers go. After seeing this and 2011's "Tree of Life" I think he is a disastrous filmmaker who needs a change of pace, or a new job or something...
If you didn't see "Tree of Life" in 2011, trust me you didn't miss much. The trailer was so good I considered putting it on my top ten for the year. The actual movie itself was dull, tedium and left me motionless. The synopsis' for the film will tell you that a boy struggles with the relationships he had with his overly nurturing mother and his harsh father and he takes that struggle to manhood. The actual movie is nothing of the sort. "Tree of Life" starred Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn. But the whole movie featured these big actors looking around, looking at each other, whispering about existentialism. Then right in the middle of the movie there's a great special effects show detailing the big bang, followed by a silly, pointless scene involving dinosaurs. Then we are right back to Pitt, Chastain, and Penn for more looking around and whispering. The film had beautiful cinematography, but that's the only positive thing I could think to say about it.
Malick's new film, "To The Wonder" is about the same as "Tree of Life." Once again, Malick surrounds himself with the great actors Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem. Once again, the film is very beautiful to look at. But sadly, once again the whole film consists of these great actors barely talking, not having coherent conversations. Instead of whispering about existentialism, they whisper about love.
You see, Affleck's character meets Kurylenko's character in Europe and they fall in love. They love each other so much that he asks her to move back to the United States with him. It seems like all is well for awhile but things eventually sour and Affleck reconnects with a McAdams character, which is an old girlfriend Affleck's character had in high school or something.
I apologize for not using character names, but nobody ever uses any of the character's names in the movie. The only way one could learn the name of a character in a Malick movie, apparently, is to go on IMDB.com and look it up. I find it to be a crime that I watched nearly two hours of "To The Wonder" and I never learn what each character's name was. But hey, the exact same thing happened in "Tree of Life." I guess Malick thinks it is some elitist movie gimmick to make his film more cool. I don't think that choice was cool at all, in fact I found it to be incredibly annoying.
I wish I could talk about the performances by Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Olga Kurylenko. But to be frank, there really is not much to them. These actors just look around at each other, embrace each other and steal kisses. There are also scenes upon scenes of McAdams twirling in wheat fields. All the while the audience is busy trying to figure out what this movie is about. It feels like more of a test than watching a movie. The only character that actually sort of talks is Javier Bardem. He plays a priest who talks much about love in his sermons and also marries people. His character is the only interesting one simply because he has the most lines. Had the movie been about Bardem's priest this could have been something. But Malick seems perfectly content filming McAdams twirl in wheat fields for endless minutes.
I think that both "Tree of Life" and "To the Wonder" both have great ideas in them. However, those ideas get lost in Malick's ego or self-parody. I am not sure exactly what he is channeling when he made these two movies, but I have not been following Malick over the years. As I said above, I really want to see his early work and see if any of this stems from his early projects. One thing is for sure though, if Malick continues to make films like this, then I am definitely done with all things Malick.
FINAL GRADE: D-