Thursday, April 11, 2013

Artistic Torture

To the Wonder       Final Cut Score: 50%

Remember the fervor with which folks debated Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life? There will be zero debate about the merits of his latest work, To the Wonder — it's two hours of "artistic" torture.

Visually indistinguishable from Malick's 2011 soul-stirring showpiece in look and feel – aside from a beached Plesiosaur or roaming raptor – Ben Affleck's a vacationing-in-Paris construction worker who falls hard for a French gal (Olga Kurylenko, the Bond girl from Quantum of Solace) as the pair tour seaside castles, prancing about beaches that possess the elasticity of a bounce house.

The honeymoon phase comes to a screeching halt with the duo shacking up in the Sooner State, cohabitating in a depressing-as-all-hell suburban subdivision. Affleck's miserable existence allows the 40-year-old to deliver his perfunctory gravely-solemn routine, made famous in films like: Argo and The Town.

But Affleck is not alone in his suffering, Javier Bardem mopes around town as a spiritually-challenged priest and Rachel McAdams looks suitably dejected in her five – possibly six – minutes of screen time as Affleck's romantic rest stop.

Oh the despair.

Malick – as in The Tree of Life – floats whispers of philosophical gems such as: "Love makes us one", "What is this love that loves us?" and "I write on water what I dare not say".

Forgive me for counting tiles on the theater's ceiling to pass the time.

With hiatuses as lengthy as twenty years between projects, To the Wonder is Malick's second film in less than two years, though it's a stretch to call it an actual "film". It's akin to one of those things that play in a loop on the wall of a contemporary art museum.

Malick's profound message permeating throughout: Living in Oklahoma blows.