“The Tree of Life” Review

Three of the biggest and most talented names in Hollywood, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Terrence Malick, seek high and low for the meaning of life in The Tree of Life and find early Oscar buzz in return.

Known for his strong and unforgettable classic dramas such as Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, legendary writer and director Terrence Malick is the mastermind behind another instant classic, The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds), Sean Penn (Milk) and Jessica Chastain (Stolen, Jolene).

Set mostly in 1950 America with flash-forwards and flashbacks, Pitt portrays a father of three who tries to teach them the harshness of the world and what it takes to survive. The mother of the three, portrayed by Chastain, represents the way of love and mercy. Penn portrays Jack, one of the three brothers, shown briefly as an adult ‘lost’ in a modern world and seeking to comprehend the idea of life itself after his harsh childhood at the hands of his strict father and observing the love of his compassionate mother.

The origin of the movie dates back to the late 1970s, when Malick was working on a project that would trace the origins of life on earth. When the development of the movie actually began decades later, Heath Ledger was slated to play Mr. O’Brien, the role that Pitt took over.

For those seeking an action-packed thriller, a solid plot or sheer entertainment, this is not the movie you want; in fact a large section of the crowd booed it during its premiere at Cannes. But for those patient filmgoers that are interested in seeing true genius at work, this is the one you need to see in 2011. It’s slow in places, it’s complicated and it forces you to really think deeply, but it definitely has that certain something that is also very rewarding and uplifting about it. Mind you, it only really hits afterward. If you are like me, it will linger in your mind for days and you begin appreciating it more.

At first glance, it feels a bit pretentious of the great Malick to expect moviegoers to indulge along with him in such esoteric existentialism, but eventually it sinks in that this is a very powerful, moving piece of work that will inevitably be referenced for years to come.

Already the winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or (golden palm, for best film) despite some of the boos, expect dozens more nominations and awards over the next year.

The Tree of Life Official Trailer: