Hope you had a glorious Memorial Day weekend. I went to the movies, and saw what is likely to become one of the most hotly-debated films of the year. Pretty sure it’s also the single most beautiful film of the year. It got showered with praise at the Cannes Film Festival (which just means that several highbrow people were every bit as confused as the rest of us, but assumed it must be good – given its stars and the way it looks). This is not to say that The Tree Of Life isn’t worth seeing – because it totally is. What I can guarantee is that it’ll make you think – and maybe you’ll think it’s dreadful and pretentious, and maybe you’ll think it’s the most powerful cinematic experience of your life. Either way, you won’t be able to shake it for days.
If you do decide to catch it, know that it’s a) extremely cryptic and b) about half an hour too long. That said, this story of a 1950’s Texas family headed up by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain will draw you in like nobody’s business, until you hit the sequences about the creation of the planet earth, where you’re going to feel a little lost. Hopefully in a good way. The basic storyline is this: we meet Brad and co – which includes three of the cutest little boys in all of Christendom, and watch them as youngsters in that post-World War II era after suburbs had sprouted, living in Waco, Texas. Pretty early on we learn that one of the boys dies as a young adult, and in order to demonstrate the impact of this event the director takes us – backwards – to the very beginning of time. Then we get swirling cloud masses and all sorts of geological phenomena in the violent, seismic and molten-lava spewing stages of early earth. This of course is all accompanied by serious orchestral music and you may feel like you’re watching National Geographic inside an observatory. Then we move forward through early life (and yes, this includes dinosaurs) before returning to the central family back in Texas. This part of the movie is also intercut with Sean Penn – who plays one of the boys as an adult; he appears in strange scenes trying to come to grips with his family’s loss. The whole thing is about the cycle of life and death – and it asks us to consider where we (and our various lives) stack up against the march of time. When discussing, you can also feel free to point out that “the fall of man” and “loss of innocence themes, while intriguing, may have been a tad heavy-handed”.
It’s largely a big picture picture – and if you’re into imagining where we fit in — existencewise — this film’s tailor-made for you. As far as the earthly components go, Brad Pitt is wonderful as a stern father with a crew-cut and no-nonsense approach to parenting. Jessica Chastain is his lovely, demure 1950s wife and the boys (especially the oldest son) are just amazing. I understood about 50% of The Tree of Life, and am still trying to piece stuff together. Still, I’m very glad I saw it. Meanwhile, critics are saying that it’s way ahead of its time and that it’s one of those films that’ll be hailed as a masterpiece in twenty years; I have absolutely no idea if they’re right. All I know is that it looked a lot better then The Hangover Part II, that Brad Pitt was super hot with short hair and great clothes, and that there are worse things than big brainteaser movies we all get to argue about, ad infinitum.
1) Fight Club
2) Meet Joe Black
3) Mr. and Mrs. Smith
4) Ocean’s Eleven