Memory and Magic in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life

Like an Andrew Wyeth painting come to life, Malick's obsession with open doors and windows conjures myth and memories.

Nature is a cruel and unforgiving mistress.
 
Over time, man has conjured God to tame her and give reason and order to the random chaos.
 
In present day, a man named Jack (Sean Penn) wanders listlessly through a cold, sterile metropolis where success is measured by wealth and excess.  On the anniversary of his brother’s death, a call to his father triggers an ocean of memories to come rushing over him.  Distracted, he daydreams and wonders about the meaning of life and why his brother had to be taken from him.  Was it because of the bad things he did as a child?  Was it a failure on the part of his parents?  Is it because his God is a mysterious and unknowable power that snuffs out life as easily as it gives it away?  Is this why he has become so misguided and empty today?  Jack imagines his childhood bookended by the beginning and end of time, where writer/director Terrence Malick’s meta-narrative provides a linear mirror image to Weerasethakul’s cosmic cycling from Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.  Memories and dreams fuel both films, but The Tree of Life cuts through time like a knife. Continue reading

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Pardon me while I change identities.

Is there an actress working today who looks sexier in pant suits and ladies business attire than Naomi Watts?  I mean seriously…oh, wait…I’m getting distracted.  What lucky bastard is Watts married to again in real life?

As outed CIA Agent Valerie Plame, Naomi Watts is perfectly cast in Doug Liman’s treatment on recent history, the ponderously titled Fair Game.  Oh, Valerie, didn’t you know when you wrote your book that there was a god-awful Cindy Crawford movie by that name already?  But I digress.  Based on the books by Valerie and her diplomat husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn, reveling in the opportunity to display his righteous indignation), the film depicts the botched build-up to the Iraq War from the point of view of a married couple caught in the crossfire.  Wisely placing the event everyone remembers (Plame’s outing) in the center of the film, the scenarios leading up to this are compellingly brought to light, and the dramatic arc of the fall-out, particularly how it affects the Wilson marriage, makes for a riveting two hours.  Continue reading