Nice to know that Big Ben can still have the ladies come crawling to him.
Neil (Ben Affleck) travels to France and meets with a woman named Marina (Olga Kurylenko). They instantly connect, fall in love, and plan what their future may just look like, if they decide to take the next step. They actually do decide to take said next step and finds out that it’s a bit harder than they thought, so therefore, Marina moves back to France. This leaves Neil all alone, until he meets up with an old sweetheart of his (Rahcel McAdams) and relives the young lust he once had. However, Marina’s not gone like Neil suspects. Oh, and Javier Bardem is a priest that’s begging to lose his faith, slowly but surely. Can’t forget about that charming Spaniard.
Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a total and complete devotee to the Church of Malick, I still stand by the fact that I am a fan of his movies, and consider them (as most people), some of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen in my life. Granted, I don’t go to museums all that often, but with a career that spans over 30 years and only consists of six movies; the guy’s made a name for himself and a name I get very hyped-up for, whenever I see in print. Because let’s think about it: a newly-released Terrence Malick movie isn’t just a regular, everyday movie-going experience that you can catch at your own leisure, it’s a freakin’ event! This rarely ever happens and it’s time to just let it all soak in, and enjoy until he decides to take another twenty-year break. Don’t you dare, Terry. Don’t you even.
No matter what may be going on here with the story (and trust me, I’ll get on top of that in a jiffy), the visuals are always as gorgeous and jaw-dropping as you can get. I love how Malick starts the film off with the beauty and aura of France, and then ends it all in the rusty and fucked-up place that is known as, Oklahoma. Malick is still able to draw natural beauty from these landscapes and give Oklahoma some key opportunities for post cards, but the way that he is able to convey the emotion of a dying land that seems to be dissolving beneath everybody’s feet, and combine that with the story itself really took me for a surprise. It may sound crazy because I know Malick can do stuff like this and totally slap me silly, but he really found a way to make this flick always worth watching, no matter what other type of junk was going on here. So, needless to say, this is a movie that deserves to be seen on the big-screen if not at the movies, then just a big-screen in your house. Either way, see it with a large-lens, volume-up, and the lights dimmed-down. Let the Malick-spell come over ya.
Now, despite all of my oogling and boogling about the beauty of this film, this is one of the key instances where Malick goes on a little too far with his view. I’ve always noticed when Malick has gotten a bit too into his own shit in recent time, but it’s never gotten to me so bad because of everything else that’s been able to distract me. However, there isn’t all that much to distract me other than beautiful visuals, and to be honest: that damn aspect can only go so far! Eventually, my simple-mind is going to need a compelling story, with interesting characters, and smart messages about the world we live in or something along those lines. I can tell that Malick knows what a simple-mind wants and at least tries to make some of that magic happen, but doesn’t go deep enough. Let me explain….
The problem with this movie is that the story doesn’t do much to bring us in. Yes, it’s an easy story about two people who fall in love, decide that they want to be together, but then realize that there’s more at stake than just love: there’s life! But an easy story don’t mean jack shit, unless you have a way of making us connect to the story and the characters that inhabit. That’s the biggest problem Malick runs into here. Seeing as this is Malick’s movie, and everybody plays by his rules and his ways, everybody in the movie seems to sort of be second-nature to what the man can show just by using a camera. Once again, all fine and all considering the visuals are as naturally-beautiful as they come, but they only go so far.
The characters don’t get enough attention payed to them, but even when they do; they don’t seem to really use it well. That’s no insult against the talented-actors either, that’s just a problem with the script. The movie paints these characters as walking caricatures of what it should be like for people to be in love, to be sad, to feel conflicted, to feel angry, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t really seem to get any deeper than that, and even though there are a couple of key scenes that may change your opinion on what I just said; they don’t do much for the final-product.
The subplot with Javier Bardem as the Spanish priest that’s losing his faith is the one instance where you might change your mind for the sole reason that it has no reason to be here. I mean yes, Bardem is great in it and definitely makes all of his screen-time worth it, mostly because it’s all dedicated to him just walking around, looking sad, and chatting around with random peeps (most of which seem to be non-actors), but he serves no purpose to the story. Everything here is about the love and the feelings that go with it, and then he shows up to start babbling on about God and keeping your faith and whatnot, and it seems random. That, and also just another excuse for Malick to throw in another one of his “God references” that he loves to use so very, very much.
After awhile, all of the same stuff that we have seen done one hundred times before in Malick’s other flicks, and also within the first ten minutes of this movie, becomes an annoyance. It’s still beautiful to gaze at, but the story goes into places that don’t seem reasonable or even worth the watch. We see a bunch of people just mope-around, look as if they are sad about something, or in heavy-thought, a little bit too much. Instead of emotion so damn much, I just wish that one of these characters would actually stand and speak-up for once. But instead, they just all stood there, touching their faces and arms, as the sun rose behind them. That right there, is a scene that’s repeated many, many times throughout this movie so if that’s not your type of thing: good luck. For me, it wasn’t total hatred, but it didn’t make me happy either. I’m just a simple dude, man!
The fact that most of this movie is all in narration, means that it takes away from the actors on-screen. Well, all of them except for one gal. That’s right, Olga Kurylenko is surprisingly the best out of this whole cast. Her character, Marina, is annoying as she’s always craving and needing attention, whenever she’s not prancing and dancing around like five year old, but her performance is exceptional. Kurylenko really captures that fully-free spirit that this character needed to have to work and rather than making her just one, Manic Pixie Dream cliche after another, she keeps it going and gives us depth, heart, and emotion to her. Kurylenko has never really done much to surprise the hell out of me in the past (not much of a track-record to begin with), but she really showed me some promise here and let’s hope that it continues to go on and on, until Malick decides to cast her again.
The other two in this cast, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, really are just here for window-dressing. For the latter, that doesn’t matter since her character and subplot seems so superfluous it’s almost hilarious. But, as for the former, that’s a bit ridiculous considering that the movie is supposed to revolve around him and whatever the hell he does with his weenie. Affleck has about five or six lines where he actually gets to sit-up and speak for himself, but it’s not enough considering we don’t give a shit for the guy and we never find out why the hell him and Marina are having such a problem being together. Of course Marina wants to venture out into the world, but what the hell is bugging him so much? It’s rarely ever explained and by the end of it; I just didn’t really see the use in them being together, so much so that I just wished a plot-twist would come around the corner and Bardem and Kurylenko would be boning out of nowhere. Hey, Malick has never been one for conventionality so I wouldn’t throw that idea totally out the window.
Consensus: Terrence Malick always has a knack for capturing the natural and inner beauty of this land that we call Earth, which is surely evident in To the Wonder the whole run-time, but can only do so much to satisfy one’s needs when a weak story, irrational characters, and random transitions between characters and character’s stories, begin to plague what could have been a very emotional and compelling experience, courtesy of the master of filming grass.
6 / 10 = Rental!!