The Tree of Life won this years Palme dOr at the Cannes Film Festival.
Before you get too impressed, last year the Palme dOr went to Thailands Uncle Boonmee Who can Recall His Past Lives. Its one of the worst films in the history of Earth.
Some of you will likely stick writer/director Terrance Malicks The Tree of Life in a worst ever category. Others wont.
While I havent seen all the submissions from Cannes, in my opinion the award is deserved. This isnt to say Malicks movie isnt troublesome. It is difficult to follow. Some may think impossible. That sums up the bottom line: Malicks film is both brilliant and boring.
Youll have to decide.
As the title suggests, Malicks movie starts at the tree of life. It mixes God, the source of all life, with grace, forgiveness and love. Layered into the plot are dysfunctional relationships within a family, with a focus on conflict between a boy and his father.
The Tree of Life begins with a quote from chapter 38 of the Bibles book of Job. God asks a confused and questioning Job where he was when he God poured the foundations of the Earth. Questions, quotations and comments meant to guide you along the plots multi-tracked path are mumbled underneath a soaring, mostly classical music soundtrack.
They do and dont help. Do and dont pretty much define most Malick projects. You understand, but you dont. And if you dont understand, you dont care anyway.
The Tree of Life is a visual feast and often looks like something youd find on PBS Nova or the Discovery Channel. Instead of using modern computer graphic systems to create his special effects universe, Malick hired 2001: A Space Odyssey effects creator Douglas Trumbull who does it the old-fashioned way. What you get from Trumbull and Malick are long stretches of imaginative visuals that play with your senses in powerful ways. It is time-warp eye candy.
If you dont spend a lot of time on the science TV channels, you will be even more blown away.
And like Trumbulls work in 2001 the visuals make sense within the structure of Malicks loose plot. Key word: loose. Malick gives you lots of freedom to interpret what you see in your own way. Or what you see wont make sense at all. But like the mostly plotless plot, what youre seeing is so original you wont care.
That leads us 360 degrees back to whether you like Malick films. The story or so it is called is set in a small suburb of Waco, Texas, in the 1950s. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain play a married couple. Malick focuses on them and their two boys. He only uses a hand-held camera for those scenes. The hand held gets unusual results and adds an interesting dimension to their story.
With very little dialogue, the family especially the older son painfully works its way through childhood, life and death. The confused and angry boy tries to fit himself into a universe that makes no sense and frankly into a story that often makes no obvious sense either.
Death, redemption and reconciliation are displayed in scenes featuring Sean Penn as the boy as a grownup. Within that puzzle hes still trying to fit the pieces of his own life puzzle together.
Terrance Malick movies are events. While not all of them are what you would call a good movie, each is brilliant in its own way. As noted earlier, some find Malicks flicks akin to brain death. Others cant wait for the next one.
I rarely find his films satisfactory or even enjoyable. However, you will always find me in the cant wait category.
The Tree of Life needs to be seen. Even if it is just because youve never seen anything like it before.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Aug. 5 at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.