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To the Wonder

Posted by martinteller on May 18, 2013

I was hoping to buck the trend of disappointed reactions to Malick’s latest film.  He’s a filmmaker I hold dear to my heart, and the divisive Tree of Life is one of my favorites, so I felt very much on his side.  So I waited for that transcendent rush of Malickian goodness to wash over me.  And waited.  And waited.  I could feel my eyelids growing heavier.  I was checking the time.  I was, for the first time ever with a Malick film, bored.

Bored with these empty characters.  Bored with Bardem’s sleepy impression of Gunnar Bjornstrand in Winter Light.   Bored with Affleck with his relentless staring off into the distance, interrupted by inexplicable bursts of anger.  Bored with Kurylenko’s endless twirling, dancing, skipping, and for heaven’s sake STOP looking back over your goddamn shoulder.  Yes, it’s so very photogenic when you do that.  But enough is enough.  Honestly, by the end I was starting to laugh every time she did it.

But aren’t Malick’s characters usually on the thin side?  Fair enough, but why do I care so much more about the people in those earlier films than I did for these people?  Maybe it was the voiceover, which — although it does occasionally transmit a sort of eloquence — often feels like leftover bits from ToL.  It’s a phrase that’s thrown around a lot in connection to this film, but it fits… this is bordering on “self-parody”.  How many shots do we need of Affleck and Kurylenko oh-so-tellingly wandering around separate parts of the house?

It is frequently beautiful — I’d say less visually appealing than most of his other work, but that’s quite a record of visual splendor — and there is heart in it.  I may have ripped on Bardem as a second-rate Bergman character, but I actually was somewhat interested in his religious struggles, and how the love of God compares and relates to the love between people.  It just seems like the effort isn’t there.  The film looks like it’s aiming for profound insights and sweeping emotion, but the work hasn’t been done to make those things happen.  I didn’t want to, but I’m afraid I have to jump on this particular bandwagon… it’s the first truly disappointing movie I’ve seen by Malick, and the first I have no desire to see again.  Rating: Fair (65)

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2 Responses to “To the Wonder”

  1. JamDenTel said

    I felt like it was bordering on self-parody in the first act, but when Rachel McAdams’ character makes her entrance, I thought it started to really come alive, and remained quite good through the end. I had some issues with it (I thought McAdams was quite good and found the disappearance of her character a disappointment), but on the whole I was pretty pleased with it.

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