Monday, May 6, 2013

Rape jokes with my bros

I gave my ticket to the cute girl in the knitted beret and she smiled at me because that's what a good employee does, and of course I decided to use that as part of the scenario I created as soon as I walked into the Laemmle Playhouse 7 and spotted her: There's my girlfriend Wendy (the name I've given her), and she works at this theater and gets discounts and sure enough her no-good boyfriend (that would be me) is yet again taking advantage of it. "He's incorrigible!" she'll remark to herself. But as time passes, the glow of a steady relationship will fade and Wendy will grow increasingly annoyed and call me out on every thing I do, then I'll find everything she does bothersome as well, because that's what happens when you live with someone long enough. Eventually Wendy will tell me that she thinks we should go our separate ways and I will immediately agree, forgetting that before her I was filling up wastebaskets with piles of wadded-up loneliness.

Hi there. I'm me and you're you and I'm about to ramble about the latest picture from cinematic badass fucker of all mothers, Mister Terrence Motherfuckin' Malick. It's called To the Wonder and that's what I went to see at the Laemmle. Among the actors who survived the final cut: The chick from Hitman; Mean Girl Rachel McAdamsJavier Bardem's sexy Spanish ass; and former Goofus to Matt Damon's Gallant/current Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Ben Affleck (who I understand was quite exemplary in the motion picture Phantoms). If you're looking for Rachel Weisz, Michael Sheen, Barry Pepper, and Jessica Chastain, you can find them drowning their I Got Edited Out sorrows at the local bar -- except for Chastain, who is contentedly sipping a Diet Coke because at least she got to be in The Tree of Life, plus she's also the Designated Driver of the group. 

So when the movie begins, we're introduced to Affleck and Chick from Hitman's characters (unnamed until the end credits) and they're having a lovely time of being two attractive people frolicking the fuck out of France, in particular over at that place in Normandy with the freaky-ass bouncy mudflats that I can't remember the name of and I'm not gonna bother looking up the name, because then I'll just digress into looking up porn and won't finish my ramblings. Anyway, their frolicking probably doesn't look too odd to the locals, since I'm sure they're used to seeing tourists free-spiritedly take in the sights of this lovely country, prancing about with their arms outstretched like they're in a Terrence Malick film or something.

Speaking of frolicking -- a word I will use often in this post, in case you want to play a drinking game while reading this shit -- remember back in the day, when you first discovered John Woo and the use of doves in his films was kinda cool until he ran it into the ground with overuse and it became kind of a joke? I think Malick has reached that point with the way the characters in this film dance/skip/brisk-walk their way through the locations. It's like their all on something and they want to drink in the colors that are apparently emanating from all of nature. If my man was saving up Frolic Points during those 18+ years that he wasn't making movies, the motherfucker sure as hell used them all up by the end credits of To the Wonder. Had there been any tulips on the set of this movie, you bet your sweet ass these characters would be tiptoeing through them.

"Mama, why are you unhappy?" asks the daughter of Hitman Chick, not knowing that by being in the same room with her and talking, she has answered her own question. Yeah, there's a precocious 10-year-old (is there any other kind?) from a previous relationship third-wheeling our couple's dynamic, but despite that chatty burden, everything is going awesome for them so Affleck decides to bring them over to small town Oklahoma.

For a while, our French duo is digging the fuck out of the clean supermarkets and Sonic Drive-ins, forgetting that they came from one of the most awesome places to live. But I guess it's kind of a grass-is-greener deal Malick is pointing out; I mean, Paris has -- among other things -- a fucked up traffic system and a bunch of asshole Parisians living there, while the streets of Oklahoma are wide and structured and when/if you get yelled at by a road-rager, at least it'll be in a comical Southern accent. Also, don't forget that for a couple of foreigners, the simple delicious purity of a freshly baked baguette served with ham and butter from a local boulangerie is an everyday occurance that ain't shit compared to the newfound chemical fakey-goodness that is the Butterfinger Sonic Blast.

Actually, I take it back. I don't think the whole green-grass sentiment is where Malick is coming from. I don't know where the fuck Malick is coming from. What I do know is that as the film goes on, Hitman Chick grows more and more discontent with her new surroundings, as does her daughter. But not in a Familiarity Breeds Contempt thing, and not a Fish Out Of Water thing either, it's more about how much any place you're living in can suck a fat fucking cock when the guy whose fat cock your sucking all-of-a-sudden ain't as lovey-dovey as he was in the beginning. OK, I'm being crude there. Sorry. What I mean is that even the strongest relationship carries with it the risk of thrill-loss, and those unlucky to find that risk becoming a reality will find out the hard way that even the most enchanting place can feel so fucking lonely when the honeymoon is over. Don't I know the feeling. Come back to me, Wendy.

See, maybe in The Wonder, money isn't required and all one needs to get by is to constantly happily gallivant through his or her surroundings, but back in Oklahoma U.S.A., Affleck has to work for a living. His job involves walking around aimlessly, looking at tractors and oil drills and listening to toothless locals talk to him about dogs acting weird. I'm still not sure exactly what his job is, but if one of the required duties in this position includes not looking the least bit convincing as a working man who knows what he's doing, then it's safe to say that Affleck's character is employee of the decade. But job security isn't enough for Hitman Chick, who is in need of being caressed/held/frolicked with 24/7 and she's starting to grow restless.

Shit, girl, at least he's working, he's doing something with his time. Maybe you wouldn't feel so unloved and rootless if you had something to do with your time other than ecstatically flitting about hick suburbia like you're Nell Unshacked, picking up poor wayward hens and dancing with them and singing to them in French what I can only assume translates to: YOU CANNOT ESCAPE MY FREE-SPIRITED NATURE, CHICKEN.

And it's not like the neighbors are weirded out by your behavior, probably chalking it up to you being a foreigner. They invite you and your brat daughter to join them in their backyard mommy-and-me fuckarounds, but you don't seem too excited about joining that particular soccer mom circle. Well what the fuck, lady? You happy being unhappy alone at home? Find something to do. Get yourself a fuckin' job, something part-time like a door greeter at the Super Walmart. Something. Anything. Get busy living or get busy dying, lady. That's what I say. Get a job or get a blog, that's also what I say.

I'm being unfair. Even if Affleck's character was a shiftless layabout, he'd still be doing the distant thing with her. It happens. Sometimes you spend your life looking for something, like some hot French/Ukrainian chick from Hitman, and then you get it, your contentment emanates from you like Bruce Leroy with the Glow, until you find yourself not giving so much of a shit anymore because as human beings we're all fucked up creatures and boo hoo and blabbity blah blah blah to the fuck blah blah.

Anyway. Affleck and the two French broads, they have an interesting way of interacting with each other; they only speak French to him and Affleck says close to nothing in return. Or maybe he does talk to them, maybe he was a chatterbox in the first cut, but Malick and his editors made sure to snip that shit out and leave behind only the opposite party's reaction. See, like most of T-Mal's films, this is more of a visual trip through storytelling-land, and in To the Wonder, anything resembling expository dialogue between the characters is mostly taken out (or used in the flowery poetic narration) and it's up to the audience to piece together what's going on.

Affleck unfortunately looks out of his element here -- and I'm saying that as a guy who never hated on homeboy (except for that episode of Project Greenlight where he was munching on popcorn while watching an early cut of Feast and then left behind his trash and a bunch of spilled popcorn on the couch, never bothering to pick up after himself -- what a piece of shit). Here, he looks lost and lame. He looks like Ben Affleck. I came away from this flick thinking that Affleck probably had a shitload of dialogue but because his acting sucked and/or his French sounded like ass, Malick thought it was better to cut all that shit out and make him more of the strong, silent type -- and he can get away with it too, since he pretty much rewrites the shit out of these joints in the editing room anyway. I wonder if Adrian Brody sucked in The Thin Red Line, and that's why the final cut turned his talkative character into the fuckin' Bellboy

Rachel McAdams shows up as a farm girl who recently lost someone in her life, or at least that's what I think I pieced together with the fragmented/elliptical storytelling here, because Malick doesn't give a shit about you understanding what exactly is going on, he's more interested in that you feel these motherfuckers in your soul. Oh, look at McAdams, looking so pretty and lonely, dealing with errant buffalo and asshole horses in need of serious whispering, without so much as a single farmhand to help her out (yet she manages to have enough free time to look her best!). And here comes her old school chum Affleck, recently tired of the French tang and moving on up to some good ol' heartland pussy.

Mean Girl looks like the quintessential Malick Girl in this flick, photographing very well in the natural settings under the natural light (kudos to mi hermano, the great cinematographer of raza, se├▒or Emmanuel "El Chivo" Lubezki). Affleck's inadequacy must've rubbed off on her though, because her performance in this picture is an odd duck of a different color. She's like the personification of the narration in one of these films, speaking in a whispery breath like the entire world is a library or something. It doesn't matter where or when or why, the whole time she comes off like she's auditioning for The Village Part II. Maybe she took the horse whispering part literally, I don't know. Whatever the case, I actually came away feeling the most for her character, despite the performance.

Meanwhile, Javier Bardem isn't getting none from anyone, because he's a priest who doesn't bang boys. Just because he never got married and/or probably never got his dick wet doesn't mean he can't understand how an awesome relationship can grow strained. Hitman Chick goes to his church and occasionally opens up to him, and it's too damn bad she has no idea that he can kinda relate to the feeling that the man you love is getting all distant on your ass, only in his case, God is his boyfriend. He spends most of his days looking like the most morose motherfucker around and I feel sorry for those who attend his services, given the listless job he does with his sermons. Even for a Catholic priest, this guy's sermons are a chore. When he's not at church, he's prowling the streets with bible in hand, ready to give you the Jesus business -- and by "Jesus business", I mean, he walks around town looking as lost and forlorn as Ben Affleck's character at work.

Even the maintenance man at the church is politely giving him shit about it, trying to inspire the Holy Ghost in the dude. That janitor is pretty hilarious in his minute or so of screen time; it sounds like some unscripted shit that they just let the cameras roll on (come to think of it, this entire film felt like some unscripted shit that they just let the cameras roll on), but if it turns out that his bit was scripted, I wouldn't be surprised given that Malick is capable of writing some pretty awesome dialogue when he's not busy pontificating about This Great Evil, Where's It Come From. I remember watching a behind-the-scenes clip a while back for this film, and it looks like quite a bit of the cast consists of regular everyday citizens.

Kinda jarring to see how different the real people look in the nice neighborhoods from the ones in the more rundown areas, and I don't just mean in a racial way, either; they range from fresh-faced and well-fed to prematurely weathered skin and no teeth. Turns out these non-actors give more convincing performances than the real actors -- or maybe that was Malick's intention, to really distinguish those with genuine energy and life from those who are merely pretending. Oh, the excuses you'll look for when you really like a particular filmmaker, eh?

Especially when that filmmaker is goddamn Terrence Motherfuckin' Malick. In case you haven't picked up on it yet, I'm quite fond of this man's work. I've come away from every one of his past films with a feeling that was never less than Love. So it kinda pains me to say that I only liked To the Wonder. That's kind of a douchebag thing to say, "only liked". I guess the kinder way to put it would be to say "liked but didn't love".

Usually his films get to me in such a way that I walk away from them with this awe-inspiring sense of FUCK YEAH film ecstasy, but this one had me leaving with more of a "that's it?" deal. I think a big part of it has to do with me ultimately not giving a shit about Affleck and Hitman Chick, who are like, the main people we're supposed to be into here. On occasion I found myself growing impatient with their drama; I get enough of watching relationships go bad when I visit my married friends. I was far more involved with McAdams and Bardem's characters, and yet the film doesn't spend nearly enough time with them. He focused on the wrong people, if you ask me. Did you ask me? No you didn't, you're not even here. So let me just write this fuckin' buuuuulllll-sheeeeeeet.

If you're a Malick fan, you should check it out but I'm not going to guarantee that you'll like it. Don't put that shit on me, son. I know this film is also available on iTunes and On Demand, but if you're gonna see it, don't cheat yourself of some visual splendor -- go for the big screen. It really is only for completists though; if you thought The Tree of Life was some impenetrable artsy film-school bullshit, then you're going to think this film is like Super Tree of Life Alpha X: Champion Edition. Halfway through the film, the older gentleman sitting behind me turned to his lady and said "This is the worst movie ever". I wonder if he and his date went into this figuring that any film starring Argo Fuck Yourself, the girl from The Notebook, and that bad Anton Chigurh has to be packed with Good Times. You've been warned: the poster may say "To the Wonder" but the sign says Stay Away Fools 'Cause Artsy Existentialism Rules At The Maaa-aaa-lick Shack.

Hopefully upon second viewing, it'll grow on me and my opinion will change to where this movie can stand tall with the big boys that are Terrence Malick's other films. But for now, To the Wonder will have to settle for looking up at them and tugging at their lapels, then being told to settle down by The Tree of Life while having its adorable hair tousled by Days of Heaven. It'll look at The New World and be promptly ignored; even though The New World is only a few years older, it'll treat Wonder like a baby and want nothing to do with him. Then Wonder will go outside, where the cool uncle that is Badlands will let him have a sip from his Shiner Bock and show him his revolver, and then they'll both look over across the yard and notice The Thin Red Line sitting by himself, flask in hand, looking completely fuckin' worn out because war does things to a man.

This film came out only two years after his last joint. Goddamn. For a man who normally takes anywhere from 5 to 18 years between projects, this is like some Tyler Perry speed he's working at. He's on a tear, this bear; my man's currently working on two more films and I don't know if it's because of a sudden surge of inspiration, a realization that he's a lot closer to the end than he is to the beginning, or maybe Woody Allen called him a faggot. Whatever the case, I'm happy to know that there are more films coming out in the near future. If To the Wonder is any indication, Malick's faster-paced output will result in lesser films. But if To the Wonder is any indication, "lesser" Malick will still be worth my time.

At least he didn't call his worst film "The Master", like P.T. Anderson did with his. Sick joke, if you ask me.