20 August 2011

18 Aug - "Grace doesn't try to please itself, accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults and injuries."

Tree of Life (2011)
dir. Terrence Malick (The New World, 2005)

Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading, 2008)
Sean Penn (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982)
Irene Bedard (Pocahontas (voice), 1995)
Michael Showers (Traffic, 2000)
Michael Dixon (Cashback, 2006)
Jessica Chastain

What I said to my buddies at Happy Hour is that Tree of Life isn't something that you watch, it's something that happens to you. It was two hours long but it felt like three and I watched the whole thing and I feel obligated to tell you all about because under no circumstances would I recommend this movie to any who is not fully prepared to appreciate film as an art form rather than a form of entertainment, because Tree of Life was heavy on the former and unproviding on the latter.

There are a few dinosaurs, though, that was honestly and truly my favorite part.

What really got my goat though were these four bitches sitting in the row in front of me -you will have to excuse me for being uncharacteristically vituperative- giggling and texting and acting like blonde bimbo pieces of shit and they are certainly lucky that they got up and left 30 minutes in or else someone was going to get some choice words from yours truly. I am above fisticuffs but I will not shy away from a biting repartee.

So - the hard part now is that I have to tell you what this movie is about, and if you ever get around to seeing it you'll realize that this isn't a easy task. The movie begins in a way that sort of sets the scene. There is a father and mother reacting to the recent death of a son. Sean Penn plays the adult version of the eldest son, and we visit with him in the future from time to time. Having set the scene, the movie resets at the origins of the universe, the biblical separation of lightness and darkness. We see the formation of galaxies and the origin of our planet in fire and boiling oceans. We see the origin of life, simple organisms up to jelly fish and sea slugs and then a wounded plesiosaur gazing mournfully at the blood ebbing from its side. At this point I decided that Malick was trying to set up an allegory. The movie begins with the epigram from the Book of Job, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" In the grand scheme, one death is of very little importance, and yet simultaneously it is the most important thing that ever happens. Nobody loves life less because he or she is small and unimportant. When the movie gets back to the part about the family, it is well before any death occurs. It seems like the story of a rather uneventful summer. It concludes with a return to grown up Sean Penn, who comes to terms with the pain of his loss, reconciles with his inner child and the rest of the painful and confusing childhood memories in a moving beach scene. Try not at this part.

You might say that Tree of Life is trying to answer the big questions. Why are we here? Why do bad things happen? We are here because we are the inevitable result of a story that began at the inception of time. We are here to accept with grace our role in this story. Bad things happen because, like the Earth itself, we are born from violence and destruction. Mountains are ground to nothing so that there is a flat earth for us to walk on - of course bad things happen!

I think that's the best I can do, and I am by no means claiming authority on the subject. Sitting through this movie was a chore for an antsy girl like me - but I feel a little better having seen it. I feel like I deserve some street cred for having seen it and being willing to talk about. Plus, every single other person who I've asked, "Have you seen any other Terrence Malick films?" has been totally clueless. So there's that. :)

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