The Tree of Life (2011)
Directed by Terrance Malick
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” The words from Job 38: 4,7 are shown before The Tree of Life begins its full-circle story of life, death, and the nature of the created world….or something like that. Directed and written by Terrance Malick (Days of Heaven), The Tree of Life stars Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and premieres Hunter McCraken…oh, and Sean Penn (you could call it a cameo…he was in it for that small amount of time).
Jack (Penn) looks back upon the death of his younger brother, his life in the 1950s, his relationship with his parents (Pitt and Chastain) when he was younger (played by a stellar Hunter McCracken), and the roots of life. Also, watch for the nearly 15 minutes near the beginning with no speaking and seemingly no relevance.
Deep movies can be great. They can make us think, they can make us learn, they can keep us guessing…or they can completely lose us when they go back and time and show the terrible epidemic of dinosaur bullying. Guess which one the Tree or Life did? It was deep…6 feet under. I had thought for a good chunk of the film that I had accidentally sat on the remote and changed it to the Discovery Channel. Bizarre scenes of star nebulas, baby dinos, oceans, fields, beaches, entirely glass buildings, and planets are shown with screaming operatic music. The first half-hour is more or less sans dialogue and relies entirely on voice-over. The scenes shown are incredible, honestly better than the Discovery Channel. I don’t know how they found such beautiful scenes. And the cinematography was great, they used every angle they could think of to show these incredible shots.
Brad Pitt was Brad Pitt, with an accent, a temper, and a shaved head of hair. Jessica Chastain…she was in the movie, but her performance left no mark on me. Sean Penn needed more screen time, because Sean Penn is great. Who doesn’t think so? The real star is Hunter McCracken, the young Jack. He shows guts, spunk, and emotion as he betrays his father and mother in a totally honest and believable role.
NPR calls is “gorgeous and abstract.” Ebert compares it to 2001: A Space Odyssey…in a good way. Variety calls it “pure-grade art cinema.” And the Wall Street Journal calls it “daring.” I call it boring. I call it complicated. I call it incredibly far-out…in a bad way. I call it too long. And I pray (much like the religious undertone of the film) that you don’t pay to see this movie.