The Tree of Life (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Directed and Written by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, and introducing Hunter McCracken
The Tree of Life takes the simple premise of its film and makes so much more. The story follows Jack O'Brien an his relationship with his family in the 1950s in Texas. We see this story through Jack's eyes as a young child (Hunter McCracken) and as adult (Sean Penn). As a young child Jack's we the disillusionment Jack faces while he grows up and deals with his demanding father Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt). There are two different messages Jack receives throughout his young life; he is told by his father that he must not be naive, fight, and not let anyone walk all over him. On the other hand his mother preaches love and represents innocence.
Malick's journey with this film is a true work of art, and does not use his screenplay as the sole way to tell his story like most films. Malick uses imagery, and the impressionistic viewpoint of Jack to tell his story. Using biblical references and imagery Malick creates a work of authorship that takes the the viewer on a journey where light and sound matter more than speech. While watching this film I was not prepared for the journey I was undertaking. There is so much to this film that when it is viewed the viewer must be in a state of calm with nothing but the visuals on their mind.
The main star of this film is not Brad Pitt (although this is one of his best performances I have seen him give), not is it the brilliant newcomers Jessica Chastain (Mrs. O'Brien) or Hunter McCracken who exude subtlety in their looks. The star of this film is cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski. Lubezski conveys so much with his work throughout the film. Lubezski uses imagery and different lenses to capture the the essence of this film, and it is some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. Alexandre Desplat does a great job blending different classical works with his score that sets the musical mood for the film.
The flaw in the film is that there are moments where Malick gets self indulgent. There is a sequence in the film where for about ten to fifteen minutes there is a highlight of the creation of the universe. Though I see the direction he was going with his piece of art, I think this makes the film seem disjointed. I also thought that the length of the film was something that prevented me from finding Malick's passion which allowed to become self indulgent in unnecessary aspects of the story.