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MOVIE REVIEW: The Tree of Life

Sean Penn looks confused, Brad Pitt is angry; this film was like Hereafter on acid

  • Brad Pitt as Mr. O'Brien in "The Tree of Life."
  • (L-R) Brad Pitt as Mr. O'Brien and Laramie Eppler as R.L. in "The Tree of Life."
  • The Tree of Life
  • Sean Penn as Jack in "The Tree of Life."
  • The Tree of Life
  • The Tree of Life
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Terrence Malick is arguably the most overrated filmmaker today, writing and directing movies that are esoteric pieces that most claim are genius, and some say are crap. He's given us Days of Heaven, Badlands, The Thin Red Line, and usually takes five years between films. I hope it's ten next time.

I could tell you that The Tree of Life is about three young boys growing up in a Texas town in the ‘50s, but that’s just one aspect of the story. One of the boys dies and we see his brother as an adult, played by Sean Penn, merely walking around a factory in a daze. He does this in all his scenes (which aren’t many). Oh, he does have one phone call in an elevator where he apologizes to his dad. That was the only moment we get dialogue from Penn.

That dad is played by Brad Pitt, who is good in the role, but so what. An abusive father; we've seen that before and in better films. The Prince of Tides was great; although This Boys Life wasn’t great, it was a lot more fun watching Robert De Niro torture son Leonardo DiCaprio. Even going back to the rebellious Texas youth in East of Eden holds up better than this.

And what's frustrating about it is... well, not the 2 1/2 hours, it's the fact that the visuals of The Tree of Life were beautiful. Often times, the film has a real poetic quality, which was ruined by the pretentiousness. There would be 20 minute sections where we see the planets shot from a Hubble telescope, or waves crashing from underneath the ocean. Sometimes we see creatures in the sea, or from space we get the Big Bang, and evolution of living creatures – including a few dinosaurs.

This film was like Hereafter on acid. We hear the boy whisper questions to God throughout the movie, like "Why do you let bad things happen?"

It’s one thing to watch a film student showing an abstract movie about the evolution of man, or questioning the existence of God – it’s another thing when you’re asking people to pay money to watch that. It’s the type of movie critics rave about (it won the Palmed’Or at Cannes), although if you look at various critics of this film, even the ones that liked it talk about the many flaws it had.

Although I was never bored watching it, I found it to be a very unrewarding experience. Stunning visuals can work, but I want more with The Tree of Life. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who has been nominated four times for Oscars, will probably snag a well deserved one for this.

The Tree of Life will require a lot of patience from the audience.

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  • Rating: 1.5 of 5