Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Tree of Life - Movie Review

Before I start, I'd like to give a little shout out to The Vine Theater and Alehouse in Livermore where I saw this. It's funny, I lived in Livermore for about 10 years and never once went to The Vine. It was a old theater that showed first run movies, when there were much newer and better theaters in the area. A few years back (I think after the new Livermore Cinemas opened), The Vine retooled the place into more of an art-house theater, but partnered with the Zephyr Grill next door. You can order food, and they have good beers on tap. I watched The Tree of Life while sipping on a pint of one of my favorite beers, Arrogant Bastard by Stone Brewery.

On to the movie...

It's funny that The Vine had a sign on the door that said, "No refunds or vouchers for The Tree of Life are given if you don't enjoy it or don't get it." That's your warning right there.

This is the latest movie by Terrence Malick, who also did The New World and The Thin Red Line. He's known for visually stunning, but somewhat polarizing movies. I don't think The Tree of Life will change that reputation.

So what is The Tree of Life about? Well for me, it was about life itself, and about family. The central story follows a single family, with the parents played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain. There's very little dialog to this movie. A lot of it is muted and even the narration is sometimes whispered to the point where you might not hear what is being said. As a result, you might find it hard to follow at points, but for the most part the story is told with the visuals.

As I have sort of hinted at, at times The Tree of Life can be a bit confusing to follow. I wouldn't blame anyone for not understanding what is going on when watching this. I took a bit to get into it. The first ten minutes or so for me were kind of a mess. Then, it launches into a good 30 minutes of a Discovery Science episode about the universe and the planet. This sequence is beautiful to watch, and I love science stuff, so I didn't go nuts, but I found myself wondering what I was watching. After the Discovery Science episode, you go back to the following the family. You see the birth of children, them growing up, and how they are raised.

During this sequence is where Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain really shine. Pitt plays a very stern father, but I still felt like he was trying to love and teach his kids. I really got a lot out of emotion out of Chastain's performance. Jessica Chastain, who appears to be from the Bay Area, hasn't been in much that I'm aware of, but with performances like hers, I expect her to be in a lot more stuff moving forward.

The movie is beautiful, with some interesting camera work. The score for me was also very appropriate and haunting at points.

However, I wasn't as emotionally invested in this as I wanted to be or thought I was going to be going in. At times there were moments that were very real and easy to identify with, but there were also moments where I felt lost. Maybe I'm just an idiot. This is one of those movies that I think is going to mean different things to different people and affect everyone differently.

Unless you live close to a theater that is playing The Tree of Life, I wouldn't make a huge effort to see this in the theater. It's not that it's bad, I just think this is something that is better suited to seeing at home.

I'm going to give this a rental.

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