'The Tree Of Life': Reviews Of Terrence Malick's New Film Starring Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt's Epic BOOED; Do Critics Agree?

It's not often that Hollywood gets to review a Terrence Malick film, so when the opportunity arises, most everyone will be shouting their opinions from the rooftops.

The intense scrutiny and madhouse press scramble is a juxtaposition with its filmmaker, the enigmatic Malick, for whom "The Tree of Life," is his fifth directorial feature released in an over forty year career. In "Tree of Life," his first film since 2005's star-studded "The New World," Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain star in what is, at least in part and at its most reduced, the story of a man whose parents' polar-opposite personalities and techniques lead to a confused and troubled adulthood.

Pitt plays the hard-scrabble father and Chastain the generous and free spirited mother, with Penn their eventual progeny.

There's much more to the film, however, and after its debut screening at the Cannes Film Festival, critics were eager to give their take -- especially in the wake of the fact that some in the audience actually booed. Here's a sampling of what a number of notable film voices have said about "The Tree of Life," which opens to the general public on May 27th.

Below the reviews, see a clip provided exclusive to The Huffington Post.

Brandishing an ambition it's likely no film, including this one, could entirely fulfill, The Tree of Life is nonetheless a singular work, an impressionistic metaphysical inquiry into mankind's place in the grand scheme of things that releases waves of insights amidst its narrative imprecisions. ... Critical passions, pro and con, along with Brad Pitt in one of his finest performances, will stir specialized audiences to attention...

Few American filmmakers are as alive to the splendor of the natural world as Terrence Malick, but even by his standards, "The Tree of Life" represents something extraordinary. The iconoclastic director's long-awaited fifth feature is in many ways his simplest yet most challenging work, a transfixing odyssey through time and memory that melds a young boy's 1950s upbringing with a magisterial rumination on the Earth's origins.

It can be daunting to describe Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," but scattered audience members at its first screening in Cannes needed only one syllable: boo.

The many supporters of the movie pushed back with counter-applause, but it was a shocking way for the movie to debut.

"The Tree of Life" is an elegiac litany of images and memory-like scenes more than a traditional narrative,. In brief, it's the origin of time and infinity through the lens of one troubled, 1950s-era Texas family. It stars Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, though they share copious screen time with evolving galaxies, nebulae, and surreal, symbolic representations of the world beyond.

Terrence Malick's mad and magnificent film descends slowly, like some sort of prototypical spaceship: it's a cosmic-interior epic of vainglorious proportions, a rebuke to realism, a disavowal of irony and comedy, a meditation on memory, and a gasp of horror and awe at the mysterious inevitability of loving, and losing those we love.

The "Tree of Life" is a gargantuan work of pretension and cleverly concealed self-absorption, featuring some absolutely gorgeous photography (courtesy of Emmanuel Lubezski, who also shot The New World). Malick does care about craftsmanship: He’s clearly poured thought and care into the images and the editing, and the sections of the film in which characters are actually allowed to interact — instead of just issuing forth in ponderous voice-overs as images of cosmic tadpoles and Ansel Adams-style calendar shots fill the screen — manage some degree of dramatic intensity.

But through much of "The Tree of Life," Malick, characteristically, doesn’t seem to care much for people at all.

One of the problems for "The Tree of Life" is that it is too knowingly obtuse: the obvious idea of the film is that the we share in the O’Brien’s quest to unravel meaning in their lives through an evaluation of themselves, their relationships and their relation to nature and the grander canvas of the universe, but without a sufficient guiding influence, it becomes far too easy to simply drift along through the images Malick has so painstakingly compiled without being able to relate to or engage with his premise. For the majority of "The Tree of Life," Malick is less a film-maker than a magpie of spectacular images, which are in themselves very impressive (and will no doubt form the basis of all the positive reviews it gets), but they are so disjointed and alien. Add to that the fact that these scenes are revealed in a almost picture-book form, where vignette follows vignette without a tether to the underlying story and it is nigh impossible to discern whether Malick is seeking to define the O’Briens (and human existence) in terms of their relation to these optical wonders or is simply attempting to create something consciously atypical to jar his audience into a response.

As more reviews pour in, this page will be updated.


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