REVIEW: To the Wonder

8 02 2015

To the Wonder” is probably the most Malickian (is that the right word – or would it be Malicky?) film that Terrence Malick has directed to date.  And that is not necessarily a good thing.

Like Quentin Tarantino or Wes Anderson, Malick’s stylistic hallmarks have transcended merely serving their story.  They are a recognizable brand.  Malick is so avant-garde and experimental, however, that his brand lacks a lot of commercial appeal.  (Though plenty of young filmmakers shamelessly try to imitate him.)

“To the Wonder” plays like a guide to make a Malick movie, rote and rather passionless.  It boils down what makes him distinct as a director into a series of clichés.  The film documents scenes from a love triangle (as portrayed by Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, and Rachel McAdams) as well as a few from a Catholic priest (Javier Bardem) that crosses their path at some point.  As usual with Malick, the engine moving everything forward is the philosophical and existential musings spewed by multiple narrators rather than a traditional “plot.”

Having voiceover from more than one person is not a problem, but “To the Wonder” stumbles by not firmly deciding on a main character or protagonist.  The film does not just feel unfocused; it feels remarkably undisciplined.  By not providing an entry point to the proceedings, Malick leaves his audience in a position on the outside looking in.

Granted, simply observing the film could be worse since “To the Wonder” is shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer behind iconoclastic films ranging from “The Tree of Life” to “Gravity” and “Birdman.”  While Lubezki hardly breaks boundaries or explores bold new territory here, even watching him on autopilot proves fascinating.  His technical proficiency combined with Malick’s eye for the beauty of nature makes for quite the dynamic duo.  They could even make a Sonic drive-in look magical – and in “To the Wonder,” they do just that.  C+2stars

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One response

9 02 2015
Keith

I gotta admit I really loved this one. At the same time I can see where others may not. I think it is one that you either connect with or you don’t. If it loses you early it’s not going to do much to win you back.

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