To The Wonder never goes beneath the surface

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      Directed by Terrence Malick. Starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko. In English, French, Spanish, and Italian with English subtitles. Rated PG.

      In this virtually plot-free tale of doomed affairs and the people who whisper about them, The Tree of Life maker Terrence Malick gives us artful tableaux, images aplenty of sun-dappled nature, and the constant sputter of mumbled voice-overs, with regret and reminiscence resembling Catholic confession more than private thought.

      The main confessor here is a gorgeous Parisienne (Quantum of Solace’s Ukraine-born Olga Kurylenko) who travels with a square-jawed American (Ben Affleck) and her 10-year-old daughter (Tatiana Chiline) to less-than-entrancing Oklahoma. He studies nasty oil-industry effects while our transplants marvel at the sterile splendour of American supermarkets.

      After much twirling, teasing, and compulsive goofing around, the couple starts fighting. The hard-to-read guy eventually hooks up with a former flame (Rachel McAdams) with a nice ranch. They pose among the horses and, later, frolic with some bison. Elsewhere, a Spanish-speaking priest (Javier Bardem) tends to Oklahoma’s most wretched, and he looks less happy than them.

      We never go beneath the surface, partially because the film’s languorous montages have ponderous classical music in the place of real-time dialogue. A rare exception finds another woman (Romina Mondello) suddenly hectoring our expat in Italian—which she answers in French. Quirky, yes, but just part of the parade of indulgent acting-class rituals.

      The eccentric filmmaker’s super-stylized approach worked better in his previous films, set largely in the past. This quasi-spiritual inwardness contrasts well with the physicality of, say, Native Americans encountering Europeans in The New World, or soldiers preparing for battle in The Thin Red Line. But now the golden-hour haze parts to reveal that Malick must tackle Big Ideas because he’s incapable of dramatizing small ones. There are some sweet epiphanies, but this Wonder mostly suggests a child’s contemplation of what it will be like to get old and then look back at being a grownup.

      Watch the trailer for To The Wonder.




      Apr 25, 2013 at 3:34am

      Watched this because I am such a big Ben Affleck fan. So many Great films that Ban has been in and he is so good. But in this I just go so mad at the Director. He took what could have been a compelling film and story and spun it into a series of disjointed and unexplained or examined moments. I felt bad for the Actors and angry with such a self-indulgent Director. Watched Argo, The Town and The Company Men aftr just to remind myself what really good films are and then Extract just for fun because Ben Affleck is so good and funny in it!

      me me

      Apr 25, 2013 at 9:47pm

      Terrence Malick has been making the same recycled story/movie since Badlands. He peaked at cooking up this ethereal recipe with Thin Red Line. And since then he's been a bore. Like a preacher after 13 days on a soapbox. Terrence. Stop. Please. Or make a science fiction killer robot movie. ANYTHING but this rehashed rehash. Thanks. A fan.