The Tree of Life is a film more expansive than director Terrence Malick‘s previous work. A quote from the Book of Job. A nebulous entity with an adult Jack O’Brien’s (Sean Penn) voice. The O’Briens losing their 19-year-old middle son R.L. to an unnamed war. Jack’s voice accompanying fast, neon lights. Urbanite Jack living his architect life, having a tense phone conversation with his father, lighting a candle to commemorate his brother’s death. Jack and his mother’s (Jessica Chastain) voices on a quest for answers as we see the world’s biological prehistory. Short moments of Jack’s mother as a child. Jack’s mother becoming Mrs. O’Brien because of a dashing man in a white navy uniform (Brad Pitt) and starting a family in Waco, Texas. Giving birth and being there as Jack, as a toddler, learns and experiences things for the first time.
I do stand by one thing about this movie – Jack’s father is an asshole, for some reason the scenes that feature him having more personal importance than others. Given the film’s length, it’s generous enough to show its audience a diverse set of moments including Mr. O’Brien’s, starting us off with his seemingly innocent sternness. But he inadvertently indoctrinates them in this world of machismo and class angst, strangely enough since it looks like they have nothing to complain about property-wise. The film also uses one scene for its audience to distrust and hate that character, to show that his relationship with his family might never be mended, despite keeping up appearances.
Mr. O’Brien is a monster but thanks to Pitt building a great character, he is not a violent caricature. Eventually, young Jack’s (Hunter McCracken) anger towards his father surfaces, and the latter’s reactions vary. It’s his human moments that make Mr. O’Brien more fearsome. We see Jack’s father through his eldest son’s flashbacks, a strong balance of a detailed, mature understanding and a childlike/adolescent fear. It’s more difficult for someone to be hurt a few times by someone who they love, knowing that a person is inseparable from the ones who cause them pain.
Mr. O’Brien isn’t the only character subjected through this impressionistic depiction. Mrs. O’Brien, her disgusted face at her mother(-in-law?)’s (Fiona Shaw) terrible advice showing us that she would blossom more if she was born ten years later and/or read Simone de Beauvoir. To her sons, she’s a playmate, and especially to Jack, she’s a teacher, an inadvertent target of Freudian tension, disciplinarian, a Saint Veronica and a terrible cook. Or young, cherubic R.L. (Laramie Eppler), trusting of Jack and doesn’t treat his older brother as a competitor. The two, with the neighourhood boys, play like they want to win Darwin Awards. They add subtle humour to the film’s spiritual and philosophical film, mixed with both a childhood and an inarticulate yet poetically working-class experience.
This voluminous film turns its audience into lucid viewers, observant of its every detail as well as making us ask why Jack doesn’t talk to his wife or father about these issues, why in such a big house would the three sons room together or why the youngest son is treated like a prop. Devoid of obvious musical cues or other director tricks, these stories are intertwined, devastating moments seamlessly mixed in with more idyllic ones, letting its audience judge what Jack’s life and inner thoughts are like, if the part about the world’s biological prehistory influences the way we look at the O’Briens as they love and hurt each other, and if the ending provides closure or not. 4.5/5
- Review: The Tree of Life (thestar.com)
Hey, it’s Lucy from “The Office UK“/”Studio 60″/”Ugly Betty.”I don’t know which one of those shows that she had a character named Lucy but I’m gonna call her Lucy anyway. And a guy who plays Poppy’s (Sally Hawkins) brother-in-law in Happy Go Lucky. I swear casts in British films are so incestuous, although they never mix the ‘rich’ ones with the ‘poor’ ones. The one on the middle is Simon Pegg and the one who’s back is facing the audience is a zombie.
His name is Eddie…Paulson? Fact! The first time I saw this film was at Daylight Savings Time at Much More Music. Technically the movie went on for an hour. I also can’t remember how it ends. I’ve always been afraid to watch the movie on the big screen because apparently if you mess up the words, you get stripped in front of everyone. Anyway, Meat Loaf is telling off that boy something fierce. Also, why does every ‘bad’ movie between 1967 to 1980 need a muscle-y blonde man bimbo? That rule still exists today, a muscle-y blonde man bimbo appears as a character in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats.
Was Alfred Molina ever this skinny? Is my question too generous? Although I’ve only seen it enough to get the gist of it, I have the DVD here and my rusty French translates the title to Nights of the Devil or Diabolical Nights or something.
Ohh, Gaad! Anyway, I’ve always thought of Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) as Quentin Tarantino‘s on-screen double. Also, Coconut is so the best song in this movie.
Note to Americans: only the gay Canadians have the ‘beady little eyes.’ And fine, it’s funny hearing Anne Murray being called a bitch.
If I was a Congressman, I’d make America F**k Yeah the national anthem. Although best part of this film involves its parody of Susan Sarandon. And I usually hate homophobia in film, but seeing Tim Robbins and Sean Penn be called F.A.G.’s seemed really funny. Well, mostly because I hate Sean Penn.
After the Team America clip, we have this, and for a split second the curtains and the wallpaper made me think of the balcony space in ‘The Muppets.’ But no, this is a real person from Blue Velvet‘s wacky world. There’s always interludes of 1960’s American songs, and we thank David Lynch for seeing something dark in that decade. Speaking of the 60’s, I wonder what would happen if David Lynch directed an episode of “Mad Men.” Oh wait, that already happened.
Sookie! When I yelled that at the screen, the hipsters in front of me laughed. Funny thing is I don’t even watch “True Blood.” And again, I didn’t even know she was in this movie, especially since I loved Anna Paquin as a child. I previously blogged about how I hate Kate Hudson, but I kinda like her again here. Here her face still looks like that of an awkward teenager’s, and it’s still mesmerizing to watch her sing. I declare an Almost Famous curse, because the cast members except Billy Crudup ended up doing bad movies. Well, Paquin did have 25th Hour, and she’s better than doppelgänger Claire Danes can aspire to be.
I’m so ashamed to not know the lyrics to this song, because my dad is like the biggest Tears for Fears fan and I listened to this stuff in high school. My dad thinks the members of Tears for Fears met in a mental ward. Anyway, my favourite movie in high school, and one that needs revisiting stat! Also, when Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Gretchen (Jena Malone) kiss. Joy Division has never been better used in a soundtrack.
Joseph Gordon Levitt for mayor! Although Joe Levitt would sound like he’s running in the South.
Dance, white boy, dance!
‘Singin’ in the Dark’ programmer Shawn Hitchins says that this is what it’s gonna be like if Rob Ford gets elected for mayor. Best film criticism I’ve heard all year.
Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Nancy in… Sid and Nancy, but the casting agents considered her too young and it went to Chloe Webb. Love thanks the gods for not giving her the role because British TV called Chloe Webb ugly. I agree. And was Gary Oldman ever that young?
And we end this ding along with blasphemy. This is both optimistic and cynical. The Eric Idle character tries to comfort us, but they all end up alone and deserted, no one venerating them for their deaths. Yet.
Multitude of thanks to Hitchins for giving me the list of movies he chose for his sing along “Singin’ in the Dark” as part of this year’s Nuit Blanche, which is like the only event in my calendar. Photos courtesy of Universal (Shaun of the Dead, Blues Brothers) 20th Century Fox (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Alliance Atlantis (Boogie Nights) Miramax (Reservoir Dogs), Paramount (South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut), Pandora Films (Donnie Darko), MGM (Blue Velvet, Sid and Nancy), Fox Searchlight (500 Days of Summer) Warner Brothers’ Pictures (A Clockwork Orange), HandMade Films (Life of Brian).
Cut it, Javi. You’ve had bad hair for a role before.
Before Night Falls is playing at the Cinematheque at 9:30 tonight. Come because I probably on vacation and can’t.
First saw in a post by Brad Brevet. Youtube version posted by Christopher Campbell. Click on either in case my embed effing troubleshoots. Valerie Plame‘s (Naomi Watts) husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) tries to reveal that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As a way to discredit and ruin him, they try to get to his wife and blow her cover as a CIA agent. Comes out November 5 in limited, and November 12 in wide release in the US. No known dates for Canada yet.
It’s strange how Summit Entertainment is the distributor both to the Twilight Saga and to ‘anti-American/anti-Republican films’ like Hurt Locker, Ghost Writer, and now this.
Naomi Watts is amazing at making an all-American girl seem fascinating and multi-layered. That scene in the car is worth the ticket price.
The second time Naomi Watts and Sean Penn – perfectly cast as Joe Wilson – playing love interests in a film, the first being 21 Grams, but her name’s the one on the marquee. But then I’m sure many of you would rather see her with Laura Harring again.
Also, o hai supporting cast – svelte Catherine Morton, angry guy in Little Children! (Noah Emmerich)
That music is too cliched.
There’s probably just as much or more Iraq/Gulf war movies set in Washington as it is in the war zones.
Doug Liman’s name also keeps popping up in the blogs just as much as the stars of the film. He’s directed two clunkers before this one, but as classy First Lady Michelle Obama said, ‘Don’t screw it up, buddy.’