Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life
Starring:
Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn


Rated: PG-13  
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: May 27, 2011 Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Terrence Malick's latest effort on celluloid requires much patience even for discerning art-house cineastes. But, The Tree of Life is a striking, sumptuous protracted piece of philosophical impressionism that almost seems like a summation work, challenging those who stay with it through its aspects of creationism and entropy that branches out of it.
 
The filmmaker's elliptically engaging vision takes on an arcane, lyrical flavor that just possibly couldn't fulfill his ambition in touching a universality through the O'Brien clan, the father (Brad Pitt), his religious wife (Jessica Chastain) and three sons.
 
Texas in the 1950s is where the disciplining, yet loving Mr. O'Brien and the submissive and caring Mrs. O'Brien are raising their family in a bucolic neighborhood in a Craftsman home. One teenage son will suddenly perish presumably at the hands of war. An energetic, if unsettling childhood is felt from the eyes of their sensitive, older child, Jack, a convincing Hunter McCracken.
 
An exploratory, experiential look at the "big picture" can be felt as Jack turns out to be an introverted Houston architect (Sean Penn, who worked with Malick in The Thin Red Line). The conflict of broken, familial interaction and personal torment leads to a meditative, inquisitive quest.
 
The influence of the Bible (specifically, The Book of Job) and peculiar, fastidious iconic artists like Stanley Kubrick are noticeable as The Tree of Life uses its dialogue sparingly. The magic of cinema with current special f/x as handled through the capable Douglas Trumbull helps to convey the elusiveness and dimensionality of time and space. Being linked to the hereafter is accomplished through the effort of five editors to go along with the illuminating lensing of Malick colleague Emmanuel Lebezki with intriguing angular sight lines of skyscrapers and landscapes.
 
The essence of many wondrous episodes may leave some feeling earth-bound to its metaphysical nature, but its evolution is shaped in rich naturalism. The performers, from Chastain's seraphic misses and mother, the sons led by McCracken, and especially Pitt, in a captivating, complex role, are nurtured by the unique approach.

What might be a tedious crucible for the viewer benefits from the aforementioned production craftspersons, including another distinctive dirge-like score from Alexandre Desplat and expansive designs from Jack Fisk (often used by Clint Eastwood). Throughout a revolving union of the mundane and the celestial, the projections of similar images oddly helps this confusing, dense "Tree" tower  as transcendental force of nature.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Tree of Life  B      B+                  B+ 

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