Friday, April 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Tree of Life

Movie: The Tree of Life
Genre: Artsy Drama (is there such a category?)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain.... Sean Penn is also included though he really did nothing. The kid who played the boy (Hunter McCracken) did much more acting and needs recognition. 
Rating: PG13
MY Rating: One thumb up, one thumb down

After a fun experience watching Midnight in Paris "together", Kailana from The Written World, and I decided we needed to do it again. I suggested The Tree of Life after hearing some library co-workers rave about it and then seeing also that it was mentioned a few times during the Academy Awards. In fact, it was up for best picture.

So we hunkered down last Sunday evening/night with the movie and the Twitter, and began watching together despite the fact that we were miles and miles and three hours apart. And it was so fun! Mostly because the movie was so so weird, that we had a great time being baffled together and trying to understand it.

The boy, Jack
The basic story of this movie is about a guy, looking back on his life, especially the relationship he had with his dad. (The dad, was of course, Brad Pitt, who I thought played the perfect creepy scary dad.)  In the beginning, we learn that his brother has died, and much of the feel of the movie is the family questioning why this had to happen. Though I am so very confused about this part because as I understand it, the brother died after all the other events in the movie, so at that point, it was not part of their experience. But the guy, older now, feels wrong somehow which makes him look back on these events.

Speaking of confusion... be prepared to experience a lot of it. The movie is weird. Very very weird. (Click here for some example clips.) But artsy too. Very very artsy. You like artsy? You'll love this movie! You hate weird? You need some action? Then this movie is not for you. Thus the mixed rating above. Because on the one hand, it's very good. It's actually amazingly beautiful. The imagery, the music, the feel, the emotion......all beautiful.

On the other hand, the story is confusing and the point of it all is very allusive. Then again, I'm probably a bit (okay, a lot) dense when it comes to these things. Can someone just tell me... WHAT WAS THE POINT? It pondered life, our existence, our relationship to God and to each other, our beginnings, our endings and everything in between.

But the more I've thought about this movie, the more I think I enjoyed it. I think.

But I KNOW I enjoyed the music! You know music is a big deal to me. And in fact, when the movie started I saw something I've never seen movie on a movie.. there was a little notice that came up which said something like... the producer and director of this movie suggest for full enjoyment, it should be played LOUD. How cool is that. Loud was good, trust me.

Anyway, the music. There's tons of cool classical stuff, plus lots of original stuff by Alexandre Desplat. Here's one of each for your listening pleasure:


We decided to ask each other questions again, so here are the questions that Kailana asked me:

1. What were your reasons for choosing this movie to watch together? Just that I'd heard about it from people I work with at the library. It made me curious about the movie.

2. If you had to sum this movie up in one sentence, what would you choose to mention? That it's beautiful, but strange.

3. What did you think of the overall story? Did you feel there was one? Yes, I think there was one, the story of the boy and his growing up years and what he had to deal with concerning his dad. But I didn't understand what caused the reflection of the older guy to think back.

4. What were your favourite parts of the movie? The music for sure. I loved how it was filmed too, sort of a home video style, but really really nicely done!

5. Did your husband ever elaborate on what he thought of the movie? Did he like it or basically think similar to us? He didn't say much!  I will ask him!   (Later:) He says the cinematography was amazing and beautiful, but the story was strange. It's probably got some deep meaning about the existence of man, he says, but he didn't care enough to figure it out. He says "the pretty pictures were enough." (So it appears he felt about the same as me.)

6. Would you recommend this to anyone? I actually think I would... but I would have to know that they are into movies as an art form and not just a story.

Be sure to visit The Written World for my questions to Kailana! And to get her take on the movie.

And not that THIS means a thing, but here's Sean Penn wandering around it what totally looks like Goblin Valley here in Utah! Film makers LOVE this place!

Bottom line:  I think I liked this movie despite it's weirdness and confusing moments. If you've seen it, I would love to know what you think about it. If you haven't seen it, be brave, watch it, and then come back and tell me what it means!

And finally, here's the trailer, and this will REALLY give you a feel for what I mean by both weird and beautiful:

We're pondering The Help for our next "watch along" since I haven't seen it yet! Anyone want to join us?


  1. These types either have amazing meaning that I get and love or are just weird and make me feel stupid. You have intrigued me, though.

    1. Jenny: Let me know if you watch it and what you think!

  2. Oh, one of the actresses in this movie is also in The Help. I've been curious about this movie because of the director. His movie before this, The New World starring Christian Bale, was so aesthetic.

    1. Melanie: I've never heard of this director before, but now I understand he does some pretty funky movies.

  3. This movie was crazy! I agree that Pitt was pretty creepy and scary. I do wish it had come together a bit more in the end.

    1. Melissa: Exactly. It was just a weird ending.

  4. I started watching this one last summer on the plane trip home from Hawaii, but stopped after the first 10 minutes or so. Didn't make any sense at all. I don't think I'll bother finishing it.

    The Help, on the other hand, is fabulous. The husband and I watched it while we were in Hawaii and both of us loved it. In fact, our theater was packed and, throughout the movie, people were laughing, booing, crying and really getting into the movie. It was fun.

    1. Susan: See, you needed to give it much more than ten minutes... it least you would have got to the "story" by then! Yes, I need to watch The Help, I'm missing out!

  5. You're absolutely right about this one - it is a beautiful movie. The story is beautiful, the cinematography is beautiful, and the music is wonderful. And I think you summed up the point marvelously. Except that, even figuring that out, I'm still not sure why so much of the movie was the way it was. And was that ending ever odd! Was he dead?

    1. Lisa: Yes, I thought he was dead, but sheesh... I don't know.

  6. The point of the movie is the scope of human life. The majesty of human existence. The director obviously has a humanistic approach to life and the after-life (no God present just glorified persons). As a believer I felt this element was lacking but it felt so personal. Like reading someone's journal in the form of a movie. I thought the cinematography was amazing and it was beautiful to view someone's idea of why we exist.
    What helped me is I knew exactly what I was getting into when I set down to watch. I was expecting an art piece and I got it. I appreciate movies you could watch again and again and get new insight in. I feel Tree of Life is this kind of movie. I really enjoyed it and Jessica Chastain is magical as the mother. With almost no dialogue you totally get her essence. Also, I thought Brad Pitt despite being a strict disciplinarian had a few softer moments that made you feel compassion for his character.
    In some ways I felt it had the rhythm of a ballet, where you get the story from movement and expression.
    Definitely not for everyone but I enjoyed it. Here's my post on it



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