Saturday, August 6, 2011
Did someone say, 'Tree of Life'???
All right, so I just got back from seeing this one at the Art Mission. I read everyone's initial thoughts on it too, but stopped reading after the gloves came off and it was Lisa and Brandon vs. John and Jeff. I have a short attention span and I really just want to dive into things. So if you're wondering why I'm covering things that have already been covered, that's why.
First of all, I loved this film (though I don't necessarily want to call it a film. Sure, it's captured on film and it features actors, a script, etc., but I think we're dealing with something different here). Because I loved it, I cannot wait to watch it again and would even go back tonight. Another reason why I would love to see it again is because I think I had the worst theater experience ever. I really don't want to spend too much time on this, but you all know how much I love to rant...
For those of you who aren't familiar with the Art Mission Theater, it's pretty small. I picked the worst seat in the house (as you'll discover) and had I been in a bigger theater, this all could have been avoided. But I sat with the wall to my left and my friend, Sharon, to my right. To her right was a small family of about four people. The six of us filled up the row, so I really felt trapped in this seat - me getting up would've caused a huge inconvenience to the people in our row and the people behind us. Anyway, the reason why I bring that up is because the guy sitting in front of us had terrible BO. I'm not a mean-spirited person; I didn't spend a lot time thinking about how much I hated the guy because he smelled, but I think we all can admit that bad odors are hard to put up with. I spent the majority of the film smelling my hand. Behind us, and I mean directly behind us, were two of most loquacious women I've ever come across. They talked throughout the movie and it was the usual commentary that you tend to hear from people in theaters - stupid observations, obvious remarks, etc. Toward the end of the film, one of them begin to yawn repeatedly. Jeff told me that you guys had people walk out of your theater....I was waiting for that to happen in this case. I don't think these women are stupid because they didn't like the film, but (as Jeff established in his Midnight In Paris post) I absolutely loathe anyone who treats the theater like it's his/her living room. So between the talking heads (not the kind I'm a fan of) and smelly guy, my movie experience was under attack.
And despite all that, I enjoyed the hell out of Tree of Life. I mean, I can't wait to watch the dvd from the comfort of my own home and with the subtitles on, but I was still able to strongly connect with the film tonight. Like Brandon and obviously Jeff, I was able to relate to Jack's childhood. There's the scene where Jack asks his mother if Brad Pitt is away - he is and the kids jump for joy around the house. Malick must have been spying on the Howard household when he wrote that scene.
One thing that I loved about Brad Pitt's character is that he is never abusive. He's an asshole who's quick to point out the shortcomings of Jack, but he's never purely evil or sadistic. There's even the moment when Jessica Chastain begins to hit on him, instead of smacking her across the face, he holds onto her to stop things. Even when he gets really angry during their meal, he never hits his son, he just sends him outside. Again, I haven't read all of Jeff's thoughts on this, and we haven't spoken to each other at all about the movie, but our father is similar to Brad Pitt in that sense. He's a self-centered asshole most of the time, but he has never been abusive. Brad is phenomenal in the film, as Brandon points out. But I was even more impressed with Chastain. And maybe that's the case for all of you as well. The word perfect comes to mind. Perfectly cast, perfectly written and executed. Beautiful and pure.
Lisa, I wonder, if the film was about a girl growing up in Waco, Texas, do you think you would have enjoyed it more? I know that's probably tough to say, but one of the thoughts I had was that I think I really got the film because I know what it's like to grow up as a boy with brothers. I guess the siblings aspect is very important too. But I'm definitely with Brandon in the nostalgia that the film provides. As boys we have spent time hanging out and chucking rocks at windows and strapping frogs to firecrackers. It's what boys do. I don't think that that's all the film has to offer, but I just wonder if you would have liked it more had Jack been a Jill instead. Just a thought...and I apologize for that last line.
Tree of Life is what you get when you attempt to shoot someone's memory. And it's much more than that. It's ambitious. It's challenging and thought-provoking. It's not afraid to ask the questions that have been silently wondered by me and many others. It's a film that loves and hates creators. I think it's probably popular to compare Pitt's character to God. The hypocrisy, the offering of free will - these are just a few examples of how they're similiar. But one thing I took away from the film is that parents are more God than God. They create life and they teach their offspring how to live, act, and speak. There's such a larger influence of a parent on a child (more so than God's influence on a child), even in a religious home.
Lisa had the question of why is Jessica Chastain is looking up to the heavens and offering her son to God near the end. Chastain is also and more directly offering her son to the world and the people in that world. At a certain point, Jack is no longer under her control. He is under the control of everything that is out of her control.
I also see Chastain as a representative of nature. She's viewed lovingly by Jack in the way that nature is viewed lovingly by Malick (I think her Snow White burial is further evidenced by this). And yeah, Earth is often feminized, so I realize that I'm not telling you something you haven't heard or thought before. But anyways, in the mother there is much beauty and tranquility. It's what we find in the visuals of the world/nature.
I know I'm really starting to analyze the little things about the film, but I would like to take a step back and say that I think we'll do a disservice to the film if we analyze it too much. I was expecting to watch a film that I would not really comprehend, but that wasn't the case at all. I think the story of Jack's childhood is basic. And I mean that in a good way, but also in an oscillating way. It's also pretty damn complex and intricate. Again, another reason why it's well done.
But I really feel that those who feel that the film is a) an artsy fartsy film that is too smart for them, or b) pretentious bullshit that isn't intelligent at all - are either dismissing it too quickly or are making it seem more complex than it is (and I would say that it is definitely complex). When Sean Penn begins to walk on the beach at the end and he sees his family and others roaming around, one of the women behind us asked, "Is he in Heaven?" I don't think it matters. Sure, we can theorize about it, and hell, I'm sure there are some great theories/analyses out there, but it really doesn't matter where Sean Penn is at the end. I think too often we try too hard to figure things out and explain them. It's as if we cannot like something until we understand it. I don't know what that location represents. I do know what the interaction between Penn and his family represents, but beyond that, I'm not too concerned. I don't feel like I need to know what it fully symbolizes.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds as if one of the criticisms is that the relationships seem too detached. I know I kinda addressed that with my thoughts that I was able to relate to the family because it's similar to my own, but I just want to write a few more thoughts on that idea. This isn't a movie that holds your hand throughout or anything. This family has existed longer than the duration of the film. There's back story and exposition needed. There's more interaction needed between the family members certainly. But I really didn't need more than what I was offered. And obviously the character's facial expressions are heavily relied on, and for me they work. I didn't have a problem with the voice over. Sure, sometimes it was very inaudible, but it wasn't enough to bug me. Another complaint may be about the length and pacing. It felt much shorter than 2 and half hours to me. Thought the pacing was great. Never lost interest in it. I think a Malick film and my ADD are somehow a match made in heaven.
I have more to say, but I'll stop here. I know you guys are probably all tired of this shit.
Ben, can't wait to hear your thoughts.
Brandon, that's really cool that you're friends with Colt. I found Whispertown on last.fm about a year ago and I'm really enjoying them. Yes, my list is pretty white...but come on, I've got Nas on there. Okay, true, a white guy would put Nas as the token hip hop artist on his list. Fair enough. Love Hip Hop is dead because of the Jimmy Page guitar riff. ZEPPELIN RULEZ DUDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!