Malick’s “Tree of WTF” a (very) long strange trip 6

If you always wanted to drop acid but missed your chance, I have good news for you. Terrence Malick’s new movie, “Tree of Life,” is just as weird, and you can accurately recreate the LSD experience without possible chromosome damage or exposure to Phish fans.

The movie has a lot in common with the ergot experience. Confusion? Check. Inability to make sense of what’s happening? Check. Suicidal thoughts (e.g., “One more shot of Brad Pitt clenching his jaw and I’m going to kill myself.”)? Check. And while acid trips last 8-12 hours, “Tree of Life” only seems to drag on that long.

Still up in the air about seeing this flick? Here are some guidelines that might help you decide

  • Do you still own a lava lamp?
  •  Have you seen the Grateful Dead (intentionally) more than once?
  •  Do you know how to macramé?
  • Have you ever twisted up a bomber on the “Dark Side of the Moon” LP (or do you even know what that means?)
  • Do you think “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was pretty much the high-water mark in rock music?

If you answered, “yes” to three or more of these, then you will love this movie. And if you thought “2001: A Space Odyssey” was heavy, wait till you see this – it’s effing ponderous.

I noticed that the film credits listed an editor, and that confused me. I came up in the world of print where editing typically makes things shorter and more coherent. Apparently film editing has the exact opposite goals.

This is one movie that really needed some slicing and dicing. There were countless scenes of people gazing upward – so many, in fact, that I thought perhaps the Earth was being invaded by aliens. It could be they were just looking for the “exit” sign; I know I was.

There were so many upward shots – through tree branches, gazing at clouds, images that looked like the Big Bang – that I got vertigo and fell out of my seat. Seriously – if all of those scenes had been excised, Malick would have been left with a trailer and not a feature-length film. In my book, that would not have been a bad thing.

A friend described this flick as “challenging.”  And she’s right – after about 45 minutes it was all I could do not to bolt from my seat and into the theater next door to catch “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

It’s also a very thought-provoking work. It prompts us to ask questions like, “Who or what created us?” and “Why are we here,” and the one I repeatedly found myself returning to, “Has my watch stopped?”

The best review of this movie is one I heard, not one I read. I was waiting for my wife to get out of the restroom and I heard a woman say to her friend, “OK, I may be stupid, and I may be shallow – and I’m cool with either one – but what the fuck was that about?”

Glad she wasn’t asking me.


  1. a. 2001 is my favorite movie. Ever. I’m not kidding. My idea of a great night is to listen to some Steely Dan and then watch my director’s cut of 2001.

    b. Please stop stalking women outside the ladies’ room. Creepy.

  2. You’re an amusing enough fellow, Mr. Carmack, but such a cynic. I bet you also failed to grok the mind-expanding insights of The Matrix.

  3. Even those who enjoyed the movie seem to have mixed feelings. If you submitted this review to Rotten Tomatoes it would sit comfortably among the critics’ picks. Seriously, the word “pretentious” appears in the blurbs of four glowing reviews on the first page. With friends like those …

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