Thursday, July 16, 2015
Review: To the Wonder (2012)
Imagine you are Terrence Malick. All of your films thus far have centered around some large event (murderous spree, The Depression, Guadacanal, Pocahontas, all of fucking Creation) where you can hang all of your overindulgent shots of nature and whisper poetry into our ears. The inventor of the steadicam is screaming in the background "What hath I wrought?!" but you ignore him because it's already time for your next movie! What now?
Maybe you shrug and say "I guess I got divorced once..." and five seconds later, you deem that worthy enough a concept for a feature film. Why not try nothing at all for the framework this time around? Uh-oh, the boring two-thirds of your last movie centered around your memories, so perhaps there is enough room to add a B Story of a priest questioning his faith. Will that make the movie too high octane? Who are we, Christopher Nolan?
Where once you had your own style, you're now resigned to doing a Terrence Malick impression, because what has worked for Scorsese and Wes Anderson will work for you. You forget for the moment that "work" is the operative word because -- jesus -- living is expensive these days and ya gots to strike while the iron is hot, ya just gots ta. So you trick some investors, hire some famous people and a great DP, lock in some locations, look for beauty in the large and the small. If a story puts itself together in the hurricane, so be it. Bonus.
To the Wonder has things you may recall movies having: themes, a story, a plot... A film should have a plot, right? I mean, probably. The supporting argument is, what, Malick made this for himself? To digest some painful memories and explore the limitations of the medium? That is his right and any filmmaker's right, from the top studio director to the film school student to the kid in Kansas playing with a webcam. They just don't have a pedigree to waste. Remember that the end result of this is that the film also has to be released eventually. To, y'know, an audience. Eh, screw it, this is about Terrence. He needs to work some stuff out the only way he knows how. Who cares if that makes him a con-artist.
Watch it or, y'know, don't. The film takes way too many liberties with your time, your grace, your willingness to trust someone who hasn't hurt you before, not that much. Make no mistake, it does not mind wasting your time. It thinks nothing of you.