Tree of Life
Terrance Mallick directed my favorite movie of all time, Badlands. In many ways, it's been downhill since then. Days of Heaven isn't as good as Badlands, The Thin Red Line isn't as good as Days of Heaven and even though it has its moments, I tend to forget that The New World even exists. That's all four of his previous movies in both descending and chronological order so, unfortunately, Terrance Mallick does have something in common with Kevin Smith besides a beard.
Except I think I really liked Tree of Life. I think. I knew what it was before I went to see it. I can't imagine going into that movie having no clue what was going to happen. There's sort of two movies going on, it struck me as very literary. There's the emergence of life happening from the big bang to the birth and dominance of dinosaurs and there's the emergence of the main character within himself and in his family. A lot of the movie is extremely vague, Sean Penn's parts in particular. He has almost no lines in the entire movie and spends most of the movie existentially grimacing in an office building. Awesome, right? Kind of.
The portion of the movie that deals with Sean Penn's memories of his childhood are supremely done and are perhaps the single best collected depictions of childhood captured on film. There are other great ones. I really like the movie George Washington for the same reason and David Gordon Green is pretty unabashed about his love for Mallick. The weight of these scenes permeate the film. The movie has the feeling of a memory that's so vivid, you aren't sure if you read it, remembered it or watched it.
But at the same time I was fairly bored by the ending of the movie and some of the sort of galactic commentary that it was providing. I'm not sure why Mallick felt the need to completely construct and deconstruct something right in front of me. I'd rather do the deconstructing myself. I'm not so base a film goer that I can't handle severely non linear films but I have to admit that they often feel like tricks designed to infer weight and heft to a film that perhaps lack real strength. That isn't the case with Tree of Life but I just found it all a little distracting. I know Terrance Mallick has made some real art but he just didn't completely convince me he can still do it today.