Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sacha Baron Cohen Reportedly Returning To Write, Produce, Star In & Direct The Freddie Mercury Biopic Sacha Baron Cohen Reportedly Returning To Write, Produce, Star In & Direct The Freddie Mercury Biopic Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Discuss: Is Terrence Malick's 'To The Wonder' Another Profound Masterpiece Or A Parody Of His Worst Tendencies?

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist April 15, 2013 at 11:57AM

The last movie that Roger Ebert reviewed was Terrence Malick's "To The Wonder," which seems appropriately fitting. "To the Wonder" is a movie of quiet contemplation, one where an Oscar-winning movie star like Ben Affleck is mostly found in stoic silence and conventional plot mechanics are either eschewed or completely ignored. It doesn't take on the cosmic dimension of his equally divisive "The Tree of Life," but "To the Wonder" does contemplate similarly big questions about humanity, the world and our place in it.
41

To The Wonder, Rachel Mcadams

It saddens me to say that watching “To the Wonder,” admirable as it is for its formal ambition and visual awe, is one of my most frustrating movie experiences of the year. Really, I’m being way too Minnesota nice there. I pretty much hated it. Everyone looks lost on camera. "Well, that’s the point!" you may counter. Sorry, not buying it. Even if Malick was so successful at portraying his protagonists’ (Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck) wandering psyches and their yearning for connection, that doesn’t mean watching it is any less insufferable.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams -- making up the other part of this love triangle -- weren’t shot stunningly. True to form, DP Emmanuel Lubezki conjures beautiful, poetic imagery, proving he’s the best in the biz yet to win a cinematography Oscar (after Roger Deakins). But, you know, the light shining through tree leaves; the fuckin’ frollicking in the fields and grocery stores; the jagged, twirling camera moves; and the jeez-will-it-just-please-stop-already spinning and staring through curtains... All of this -- as apt a distillation of what happens in the film as a rundown of its threadbare narrative -- all serves to weaken the power of those pretty pictures, until by the end I just couldn’t help it anymore and started laughing uncontrollably.

A lot of what I’ve said could be construed as hyperbole or even obvious when it comes to knocking Malick for being Malick. But I stand by this as being a truly bad film, regardless of whose name is under the director credit. My disdain goes deeper than simply making fun of this pretentious wank fest. Malick’s obsession with the idealized female truly does reach parodic levels here and actually undermines the potential for two talented actresses to chew into rare meaty roles for women. With all of the talented, well-known actors cut from the film, why the decision to keep Javier Bardem’s priest character in it? I mean, really, what’s he doing here, besides wandering around in decrepit parts of Texas and talking with damaged and unfortunate, poor folks. These scenes often come off as queasily exploitative, making “Gummo” seem even more impressive by comparison (at least Harmony Korine took on a more empathetic approach, whereas Malick apparently just wants us to feel bad for these folks). This is one of the most immature movies about love and longing I can think of, rendering its female leads as childlike, manic pixie crazy people who are so consumed by their love, it’s apparently all they think and talk about. Affleck is such a frustrating cipher of a character that his indecision left me feeling that Malick wants us to be annoyed not with him, as we should, but with McAdams and Kurylenko, each can’t stop telling Affleck how much they love him (there is such a thing as unhealthy obsession, which is actually a better title than “To the Wonder”).

Beyond the unintentional hilarity -- how anyone can keep a straight face when McAdams, rope tied around her wrists, gazing at Affleck, declares “I trust you” is beyond me -- it’s hard to deny that ‘Wonder’ is as shallow, immature and bloated as a Michael BayTransformers” movie. Even the plot rundown -- guy struggles to choose between two girls -- fits the high concept mold (admittedly plot is not important to Malick nor does it have to be for any filmmaker), except this is arthouse, not blockbuster, indulgence at its worst. The thing is, I still consider Malick to be a gifted filmmaker. I’ll see anything he puts out. This time out though, perhaps because he’s sped up his work pace of late, his swing and ultimate miss is as epic as Casey at the Bat. --Erik McClanahan

"To The Wonder" is now in theaters and on VOD. We invite you to share your thoughts below if you've had a chance to catch the movie already.

This article is related to: To the Wonder , Terrence Malick, Review, Olga Kurylenko, Ben Affleck, Reviews


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates