Tuesday, June 28, 2011


At some point last year, friend and fellow Mytishchi teacher Katie told me about a lesson she did featuring a "river of life." (actually, I think I just happened to see her lesson plan and gave her a look. To her credit, I am pretty sure it was from the book) She later told me that after she drew her own personal "river of life" on the board, her students immediately translated the title into Russian and looked skeptical. As if they intuitively knew it was extremely lame. A fair assumption in my book.

So when I went to see the movie The Tree of Life with some friends on Sunday afternoon, I immediately suspected it might be kind of cheesy. People who know me know that I do love cheesy movies. In fact, I am capable of enjoying basically any movie (except I refuse to watch most in the horror genre). Oh how unprepared I was...

I'll start with this, the description from IMDB: "The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith."

... is that what it was about?!

The movie starts out slowly, with scenes of two parents receiving (separately) the news that a son had died ca 1970s. A little disjointed, lack of dialogue, but the drama is there, and it's the beginning of a movie. No concrete plot is set, but there's potential at this point. After a few scenes like this with Brad Pitt and the mom , it jumps ahead to scenes with Sean Penn (who I can only assume is one of the sons as an adult? but who knows... it's not like he says or does anything), set what looks to be about 30 years later (modern day-ish).

Then, there's about 20 minutes of what could be Discovery Channel's Planet Earth, followed by 5 minutes of what resembles a PIXAR-animated Land Before Time. Yes, there were dinosaurs (you might be thinking, "wow, this movie has it all!" and you would be wrong).

As soon as that all began, it jumped to scenes almost exclusively of the boys in their childhood and the family dynamics; it almost felt as though you were watching a normal movie (if you couldvforget about the pure weirdness that had just happened), only with a serious lack of dialogue, purpose, and continuity between the parts. That is, it lacked anything that could have made it interesting.

Most of the time I sat there in a state of total disbelief, occasionally glancing at my movie-going companions to compare reactions. On a couple of occasions I broke out laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. By the time the movie ended (it's a solid 2 hours and 18 minutes, every single one of which pass slowly and painfully), we were applauding (with relief) and I was laughing hysterically with tears of confusion streaming down my face. As we all stood up, our attention was drawn to the fact that the seat of one of my friend's broke at some point during the movie (toward the end, as I understood it). That chair knew just how to feel.

We walked out of the theatre, Anastasia apologizing for suggesting the movie, still in a general state of shock. We disbanded and agreed never to speak of it again. Sure it's possible I just "didn't get it", but isn't it equally possible that the movie just sucked? I haven't seen anything that bad since Visioneers (a movie I had entirely forgotten about until recently). If you're familiar with the HBO series Entourage, I imagine this film is a lot like MedellĂ­n.* All in all, I wish I had spent my time and money seeing Cars 2.

p.s. I'll give it credit for a few things (which by no means make the film worth seeing): featuring Austin's Barton Springs Pool, the general imagery of central Texas that I love, and the seriously adorable boys playing the roles of Brad Pitt's children.

*except in Entourage, the movie is acknowledged as awful, whereas in real life critics are retarded and seem to think this was a good film. it makes me feel like i'm in some kind of opposite land.

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