It’s been a long time coming. I am such an avowed fan, of the work of Terrence Malick. His canon is something I’ve always revered and consistently defended. Until now. The bloom is off the rose with “Knight of Cups”. It’s something I hate to say, too. 1973’s “Badlands” stayed my favorite Malick project until the magical “The New World” in 2005. 1978’s “Days of Heaven” haunts me in a good way, and I then waited 20 years for the misunderstood near-masterpiece, “The Thin Red Line”. And 2011’s “The Tree of Life” was my favorite motion picture experience of that year. But I detected a change in 2013’s “To the Wonder”, although I ultimately christened it with a positive review. However, this time…my patience finally ran out.
Of course, this is Mr. Malick. So, any plot description/summary I supply you with, will probably be much more narratively cohesive than anything you detect in this glacially paced film. Anyway, Rick (Christian Bale–Terrence still garners wonderful casts) is a Los Angeles screenwriter feeling empty in his garish Hollywood existence (oh…boy). So, he searches for himself through a variety of beautiful women. Della (Imogen Poots) is the rebel. Helen (Freida Pinto) is the exotic foreign model. Karen (Teresa Palmer) is–wait for it–the stripper with a heart of gold. Nancy (Cate Blanchett!) is–wait for it–the socially conscious physician ex-wife. And Elizabeth (Natalie Portman!) is someone he effed over in the past. Along the way, the most interesting stuff, involves Rick’s brother Barry (Wes Bentley), and elderly father Joseph (Brian Dennehy). Of course, the entire enterprise is shot in a dream-like, esoteric, and scattershot fashion.
There are eight “chapters” in “Knight of Cups”, and they are given the names of tarot cards. Such wonderful actors, such marvelous faces–all for naught. I mean, I haven’t even mentioned Cherry Jones, Antonio Banderas, or Joe Manganiello (!!!). “To the Wonder” felt like an epilogue to “The Tree of Life”, and “Knight of Cups” resembles an offshoot of “To the Wonder”. Mr. Malick is repeating himself now…and I’m finding him tedious. Plus, his observations are becoming puerile. Tinseltown extravagance, and gorgeous models and strippers, aren’t feeding Rick’s soul?! Yeah–no shit. Sofia Coppola went this route with 2010’s “Somewhere”. I didn’t like that one either. But there are riches present. The father/brother stuff with Bale, Dennehy and Bentley, is often poignant. And Emmanuel Lubezki’s beautiful cinematography is unparalleled. It’s not enough. Terrence Malick is officially rambling. And I’m getting the feeling that this is a now terminal affliction. Too bad.