The film boasts an impressive cast with Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, and Natalie Portman but writer/director Terrence Malick is an acquired taste as far as I know as I haven’t seen any of his films before this one (add it to my growing list of cinematic crimes) and now I understand why.
Synopsis: A songwriting couple try to forge their way in the Austin music scene, but their relationship grows complicated when they fall into the orbit of a big-shot producer and his waitress muse. (Rovi)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, and Rooney Mara
Writer: Terrence Malick
Director: Terrence Malick
Running Time: 129mins
While the film’s cast will attract some attention, there have been several instances where that isn’t always enough and it was the case here. They can only go as far as the plot underneath them and in this case, there was little to no plot to be had. It seemed like it was trying to be profound but it didn’t work at all as the plot felt like a series of stares and internal monologues that went nowhere between what appeared to be improvisation as the film lacked a tangible script.
The story made no sense whatsoever which made it difficult to figure out what was going on (the synopsis did a better job than the film itself), making it an extremely boring and frustrating watch. In order to maintain engagement from the audience, there has to be some sort of hook, unfortunately there was nothing to be found here. There were many factors that contributed to this which included distracting cinematography, erratic editing, shallow characters, and an overlong length, clocking in at just over 2 hours (the film could have been at least 30 minutes shorter).
The cinematography was the best part of the film, however, that could only last so long. There were some great shots but it eventually became more of an architectural digest commercial than anything else. The camerawork was all over the place and made it hard to focus on what was happening on screen, coincidentally focusing too much on certain things while panning away too quickly. The erratic editing prevented the film from having any flow with the sum of its parts coming off as a mess. The characters were so shallow to the point that it was easy to not care about them. Because there was no story and everything else going on, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that there was no character development either, making their personal motivations unclear though at that point, it didn’t matter anymore as most people will simply give up.
With everything else so far, it also shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the acting wasn’t the best either yet it wasn’t as much about the acting itself but rather the script and the direction. All the actors had decent chemistry, however, the performances, as a whole, were more on the wooden side with no one ever standing out as there were never any highs or lows for the characters. They were just as lifeless as the rest of the film. The film operated on the same level from beginning to end. There was some emotion to be had and as mentioned, it lacked any impact. Lastly, one would believe a film about music would have some decent music, although there were appearances by the same famous musicians, the film disappointed in that regard as well.
Overall, this was a boring, incoherent mess of a film with no story or characters whatsoever that not even great shots that get old quick or an impressive yet disappointingly underused cast can save. It was definitely trying to do something different but it simply did not work at all, making it one of the worst films of the year.
If you liked this, please read my other reviews here and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram, and also like me on Facebook. Would you like to write movie reviews for this site? Contact me above or via social media for more information.