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Review: Song To Song

Song To Song
03.17.2017
4 10

PLOT: This is an exploration of two romantic triangles set inside the Austin, Texas music scene.

REVIEW: Terrence Malick has the uncanny ability to create some of the most stunning images in cinema today. It’s always the imagery and the strange dreamlike state that his characters seem to exist in that fascinate many viewers. When it came to SONG TO SONG, I was looking forward to seeing what he could do by adding a heavy music influence. When a director sets his story in the world of music it can open a brand new, and sometimes compelling, element to the finished project. Here, he not only features a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman, you’ll also find Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith and John Lydon. It’s a shame that the rock and roll part seems to be an afterthought, because all we really have is a typical Malick film with souls wandering around  connecting to each other - except this time without much actual soul.

2017 drama michael fassbender natalie portman rooney mara ryan gosling song to song terrence malick Describing a plot for a Terrence Malick flick is a bit odd because he rarely has much of one. In the new film we follow two love triangles set in the music scene of Austin, Texas. Mostly, it is just Rooney Mara searching for a meaningful romance whether it is with Ryan Gosling or Bérénice Marlohe, or Michael Fassbender getting deep with Natalie Portman. The characters spend a whole lot of time in very expensive homes, looking into the distance and trying to decipher the strange world of sex and romance. If you are familiar with Malick’s recent work - KNIGHT OF CUPS or TO THE WONDER - then you will be fully aware of what to expect with this.

When it came to his past few films I’ve mostly been on board, with THE TREE OF LIFE being my favorite. However, something happened with this particular look into a tangled web of complicated romantic entanglements. My biggest issue was, while KNIGHT OF CUPS connected with me, this just felt like more of the same. This time, instead of moviemakers and such we have musicians and producers. Yet they all seem to just lounge around talking in monologues, and sharing intimate moments with each other. There are about five scenes that feature Ms. Mara just looking out into the distance with some random location behind her. This is nothing new for the filmmaker, and that may have been fine had this not just been another flick about rich people dissatisfied with their lives.

And how about the music? It was terrific to see legendary musicians like Patti Smith and Iggy Pop sitting around talking about life and love. Even when the film opens, Malick brings you into the pit at a concert with bodies twisting and contorting, all in his trademark dreamy photography with the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. But if you are going to make a film that is set in the music scene, at least have the music mean something. There is very little live performance, instead we have a few seconds of Patti Smith on stage, then back to Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling playfully engaging in each other, or Holly Hunter crying in a parking lot. It’s beautiful sure, but it’s ultimately extremely dull. And this is coming from someone who tends to enjoy his work.

The actors are fine. Gosling and Mara are good together, but not as intriguing as Mara and Marlohe. Fassbender is always great, and he has a couple of moments here to shine. For nearly every single one of Malick’s films I tend to really appreciate one character. This time it was Rooney Mara. I enjoyed the hell out of her here, but even still it felt as if she kept wandering into different stories without really letting us get to know her. And then there was Val Kilmer. He has a very small role, but it was almost like seeing what his take on Jim Morrison would have been had the legendary rocker not passed away. Kilmer was terrific in Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS, so seeing him with the long hair on stage was enjoyable.

2017 drama michael fassbender natalie portman rooney mara ryan gosling song to song terrence malick

The screening I attended was a mix of critics and fans. It didn’t go well. At least twenty people walked out, and once it ended the theatre broke out into laughter. Not a good sign. If we didn’t have KNIGHT OF CUPS I may have appreciated it a whole lot more. Sadly it just felt like an uninspired continuation of rich people just wandering through their life. It is gorgeous to look at, and there are moments of real emotional beauty here. While I certainly didn’t have the miserable experience that some of the others had, ultimately this just didn't work. The music was hardly touched upon, and the whole love story angle has already been explored far better previously by the filmmaker. 

It is nearly impossible to really recommend this, but if you happen to be a Malick fan as I am, you will probably at least want to give it a watch. Of course, you may want to wait until you are in the comfort of your own home. After his previous couple of films, it appears that he may need to take on a different subject soon. Frankly I miss the days when we’d have to wait a few years for a new feature from this stylish director. Is SONG TO SONG worth sitting though? Only for the most hardcore Terrence Malick fans... and even they may not dig this particular tune.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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