The last movie I saw before “The Tree of Life” (well, not counting the final installment of the Harry Potter films, but that’s just a life-long tradition), was “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon”. While Transformers is the fast-food of films, spoon-feeding the audience a plot that a 6-year-old could have written (robots! explosions! guns! bigger explosions!) while trying to distract away from it’s own mediocrity with a Victoria Secret model-turned-wannabe-actress and a disappointing cameo from critically acclaimed thespian (who also needs to pay the bills) John Malkovich, “The Tree of Life” is like a Russian nesting doll, with layers upon layers of metaphorical significance.
What is the film about? Well, that’s not exactly clear. This is, perhaps, the only similarity to Transformers (which went in one vague direction, only to shift to a scene of ridiculous CGI effects), although with a much better result. The movie tackles the big questions about life and death, good and evil, the profane and the divine, and most ambitiously, the existence of God.
You might think this art-house flick comes across as pretentious and overreaching, and you would be correct. Yet, when I got used to the epic style of the narrative (which includes a boy growing up in 1950′s Texas, the creation of the universe, even a scene with dinosaurs), I was able to lose myself in this piece of art.
Heavy on the cinematic shots and low on dialogue (Sean Penn, who plays the boy as a man, barely even utters a few words), the film uses Americana vignettes juxtaposed next to video footage from our solar system to show the interrelated aspect of life. Additionally, lofty opera music is used to fill the sound void, which made the images of exploding stars and nebulas seem sacred and spiritual.
Oh, and there’s Brad Pitt of course. While it doesn’t seem too hard to play the stereotypical misogynistic 1950′s father, he did an acceptable job. Although in his defense, it is pretty hard to compete with the real stars of the movie, and by that I mean the stars…and just a little thing called The Big Bang.