“The Tree of Life,” A Review

Just in case you don’t want to read this review, I disliked this movie for reasons too numerous to mention.

“The Tree of Life” is director Terrence Malick’s latest movie.  In Utah, it is only being shown in our artsy-fartsy theater.  It did not get general distribution, and for good reason.

According to Time magazine movie critic, Richard Corliss (specials.blogs.time.com, 16 May 2011):

The first thing to say about The Tree of Life is that . . . well, the first thing is that it’s a heighten, almost hallucinatory sensual experience, and essential viewing for serious moviegoers (and you know who you are). . . .

I had no idea that Corliss was such a snob.

Last evening, I watched “Ebert Presents at the Movies” on the local PBS station.  The three adult reviewers (including Roger Ebert) listed their 5 favorite movies YTD.  One reviewer had “Tree” number 1, and Ebert and the second reviewer had Tree no. 2.  If Tree gets nominated for an Oscar there is something seriously wrong with the Academy.

The heart of Tree is more than an hours worth of reenactments of Malick’s experiences growing up in Waco, TX.  What you are watching are cinematographically beautiful images which, in content, are comparable to home movies.  Would you want to watch your dysfunctional neighbor’s home videos for more than an hour (and pay for the privilege)?  I think not.

Toward the beginning of the movie, there is a 13-minute segment on the creation of life in the universe.  These images are somewhat reminiscent of the ending to Stanley Kubrick’s “Space Odyssey.”  They are nothing we haven’t seen before.  The ending seems to show some sort of resurrection.  I guess the juxaposition of the minutiae of family life with the enormity of the universe is supposed to create a feeling of awe, but it doesn’t work for me.  It all just seems pretentious.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie gets an 85-percent approval rating (64 percent from audiences), and Sean Means, the reviewer for the Salt Lake Tribune, gives it 3-1/2 stars:

It’s a mind altering, if somewhat head-scratching movie.  It’s also an emotional experience that will affect every viewer differently, because it will make each of us consider our relationship with our parents.

If you feel strongly that watching home movies at your dysfunctional neighbors house makes “us consider our relationship with our parents,” then go see this movie.  I sort of agree with Means when he describes it is “head-scratching.”  But during the movie, I felt more like tearing my hair out.

I agree with the critics who wrote:

Like watching your whole life crawl towards you on its hands and knees. (Graham Young, Burmingham Post)

Within its ambition to convey the meaning of life, The Tree of Life is also boring, cliched and banal.  (Jason Solomons, Observer [UK]

Tree of life?  Tree of sanctimonious mopey male egotism disguised as a search for meaning.  (MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher)

Glibly put, this challenging time-skipping rumination is the big screen equivalent of watching that “Tree” grow.

A friend considered this a “deeply spiritual movie.”  I consider it a total waste of 2-1/2 hours.

I think many of the movie reviewers, when they saw the name Terrence Malick, decided that the movie had to be good and/or spiritual.  And then tried to justify their preconceived notions.

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One Response to “The Tree of Life,” A Review

  1. rogerdhansen says:

    Time magazine (5 Sep 2011), quotes Sean Penn said:

    “‘Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there.’ Sean Penn, on his role in Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life.’ The actor told the French paper Le Figaro that the elliptical Palme d’Or winner–which inspired much critical acclaim and some audience walkouts–would have benefited from ‘a clearer and more conventional narrative.'”

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