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Don't feel bad, Sean Penn didn't really get The Tree of Life either

08.22.2011

Sean Penn didn't do any press for Terrence Malick's TREE OF LIFE (though he did make a brief red carpet appearance at the Cannes premiere) and now we may know why. In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, he said of the film, "Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing there..."

Penn was his usual outspoken self when asked about Malick's film. I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact."

Before you get all oh snap!! on me, Penn goes on to say in the interview that despite his criticisms, it's still a film he'd "recommend" to viewers. Penn mostly seemed frustrated with his own role in the film (Pitt too would admit to being frustrated by Malick's directorial style), saying, "Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly."

But no one ever said you work with Terrence Malick to get a warm, fuzzy feeling on set. You work with Malick because you have faith in his vision and his process. The question I would ask Penn is whether he believes the final product validates what he went through as an actor. Pitt would likely answer in the affirmative. Judging on what he says above, Penn might disagree.

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4:00AM on 08/23/2011
I completely agree with what captainteague said below. I saw the film last week and it was nigh incomprehensible. Beautiful, sure, but incomprehensible. I'm all for films that make you work and that you have to engage with in order to derive meaning from it, films that don't spoon-feed the audience. THE TREE OF LIFE, however, was just too self-indulgent for its own good. No film should be so complex and "meaningful" that the only person to understand it is the person who made it.
I completely agree with what captainteague said below. I saw the film last week and it was nigh incomprehensible. Beautiful, sure, but incomprehensible. I'm all for films that make you work and that you have to engage with in order to derive meaning from it, films that don't spoon-feed the audience. THE TREE OF LIFE, however, was just too self-indulgent for its own good. No film should be so complex and "meaningful" that the only person to understand it is the person who made it.
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12:05AM on 08/23/2011

Thank You, Sean Penn!

After seeing the film, I couldn't agree with Mr. Penn more. A clear narrative is necessary for any story to make an emotional impact, and Tree of Life was the worst movie I've ever seen because it was so disjointed it was like viewing someone's dreams as they shift at random from one seemingly unrelated event to another without any context to map out what you're seeing. The actors were clearly skilled, but handicapped by the director's inaccessible narrative. I'm shocked that the film has drawn
After seeing the film, I couldn't agree with Mr. Penn more. A clear narrative is necessary for any story to make an emotional impact, and Tree of Life was the worst movie I've ever seen because it was so disjointed it was like viewing someone's dreams as they shift at random from one seemingly unrelated event to another without any context to map out what you're seeing. The actors were clearly skilled, but handicapped by the director's inaccessible narrative. I'm shocked that the film has drawn such critical acclaim.
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11:29PM on 08/22/2011
Sean Penn is such a douchebag that I refuse to EVER pay to see any film he's in ever again. So, if this film is good or bad is irrelevant.
Sean Penn is such a douchebag that I refuse to EVER pay to see any film he's in ever again. So, if this film is good or bad is irrelevant.
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7:49PM on 08/22/2011
I was mad this never got released why I lived, but maybe its a good thing. For those who have seen it, how would it compare to some of Malick's other films like New World or Thin Red Line?
I was mad this never got released why I lived, but maybe its a good thing. For those who have seen it, how would it compare to some of Malick's other films like New World or Thin Red Line?
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+1
2:25PM on 08/22/2011
Painting in the dark can have some impressive results occasionally. Not the best technique, but something a demanding director would certainly employ.
Painting in the dark can have some impressive results occasionally. Not the best technique, but something a demanding director would certainly employ.
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1:45PM on 08/22/2011

Doesn't Surprise Me

Malick is notorious for demanding a lot from his actors in vague relation to the overall vision for the film often times leaving the bulk of, if not the entirety of an initially integral performance on the cutting room floor. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if Penn filmed more than Pitt did.
Malick is notorious for demanding a lot from his actors in vague relation to the overall vision for the film often times leaving the bulk of, if not the entirety of an initially integral performance on the cutting room floor. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if Penn filmed more than Pitt did.
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1:32PM on 08/22/2011

Makes sense

I applaude Malick for what he was doing. The choreography is just insanely brilliant. With that said, this is the first movie that I have walked out of in years. I just was very uninterested. Blame it on the confusion but man...my gf and I were just stumped as fuck...
I applaude Malick for what he was doing. The choreography is just insanely brilliant. With that said, this is the first movie that I have walked out of in years. I just was very uninterested. Blame it on the confusion but man...my gf and I were just stumped as fuck...
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12:30PM on 08/22/2011
Really interested in seeing the film, it's just that outside of 'Fast Times' and 'Mystic River', I have never liked Sean Penn in anything.
Really interested in seeing the film, it's just that outside of 'Fast Times' and 'Mystic River', I have never liked Sean Penn in anything.
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+6
12:09PM on 08/22/2011

Thank you.

"A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact." I've been saying the same thing
"A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact." I've been saying the same thing
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1:32PM on 08/22/2011
agreed. Every sentence was a question...
agreed. Every sentence was a question...
-2
11:37AM on 08/22/2011

great way to "sell" the film

it's a great way to sell a film that otherwise would have trouble finding a mainstream audience...if this word gets out in a bigger way...more people will see it just bc they want to try to size it up themselves against whet Penn has said here.
it's a great way to sell a film that otherwise would have trouble finding a mainstream audience...if this word gets out in a bigger way...more people will see it just bc they want to try to size it up themselves against whet Penn has said here.
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11:17AM on 08/22/2011
The best thing you could tell someone before going into this movie is don't go looking for meaning. Maybe the script had that. I don't know. I know I didn't 100% get Penn's part either. But I found the movie such a visual feast I tended not to care.

Not everyone in the theater liked it as much as I did.

I don't really think there was a clearly defined explanation to this movie. Since Sean Penn isn't dissing on the movie, other than expressing that it's maybe a bit muddled, I take no
The best thing you could tell someone before going into this movie is don't go looking for meaning. Maybe the script had that. I don't know. I know I didn't 100% get Penn's part either. But I found the movie such a visual feast I tended not to care.

Not everyone in the theater liked it as much as I did.

I don't really think there was a clearly defined explanation to this movie. Since Sean Penn isn't dissing on the movie, other than expressing that it's maybe a bit muddled, I take no offense on behalf of Malick. It simply is what it is, and you either like it or you don't.

Penn is no stranger to Malick's shooting style, though his last collaboration was in "The Thin Red Line," which had a definite story to tell. Any movie that encapsulates the beginning of time and the rise of the dinosaurs is talking bigger ideas than we're used to.
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10:58AM on 08/22/2011
I found it to be more of an experience than a movie. It was interchangeably boring and exhilarating, like life. Beautiful, but definitely not for everyone.
That being said, Penn should keep his thoughts to himself. An actor should never bash a movie they've been in, especially a movie that just came out, by an auteur known for his deliberate pacing and offbeat shooting style. Didn't Penn know what he was signing up for when he agreed to do a Malick movie?
I found it to be more of an experience than a movie. It was interchangeably boring and exhilarating, like life. Beautiful, but definitely not for everyone.
That being said, Penn should keep his thoughts to himself. An actor should never bash a movie they've been in, especially a movie that just came out, by an auteur known for his deliberate pacing and offbeat shooting style. Didn't Penn know what he was signing up for when he agreed to do a Malick movie?
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10:45AM on 08/22/2011

I Fucking Hate Sean Penn...

This actor pisses me off to no end. Referring to Penn as simply "outspoken" is like calling a pedophile "mildly interested in a young child's well-being". Now, Before everyone else ALSO goes "Oh Snap!!" on me...I'm not bashing his acting. There is a reason that he has 2 oscars for best actor.

You see, i'm normally the type of movie fan who can 100% differentiate opinions between the Actor/Personality. Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson...the list could go on forever! My point is w/ the passage of
This actor pisses me off to no end. Referring to Penn as simply "outspoken" is like calling a pedophile "mildly interested in a young child's well-being". Now, Before everyone else ALSO goes "Oh Snap!!" on me...I'm not bashing his acting. There is a reason that he has 2 oscars for best actor.

You see, i'm normally the type of movie fan who can 100% differentiate opinions between the Actor/Personality. Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson...the list could go on forever! My point is w/ the passage of time, any mild taint/ire/black mark bestowed upon a celebrity inevitably passes. But when "said" celebrity (i.e. Penn) just keeps doling out more & more instances of the same "Look! Look! I'm helping after a natural disaster, that makes me a hero, right?" & slimy, anger-fueled political rhetoric...well, let me just stop there. Just go away Sean, lol, go away or lighten the hell up.
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5:53PM on 08/22/2011
Please run for President. You're my hero.
Please run for President. You're my hero.
+13
10:05AM on 08/22/2011
I'm not crazy about Malick's movies. I can imagine he's as ambiguous on set as his movies are.
I'm not crazy about Malick's movies. I can imagine he's as ambiguous on set as his movies are.
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9:36AM on 08/22/2011

Meh...

Can't say I'm surprised. I'll get around to seeing it eventually. Not that excited to see it really.
Can't say I'm surprised. I'll get around to seeing it eventually. Not that excited to see it really.
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