Sunday, 17 July 2011

If Only God Were A Woman: The Tree of Life and Bridesmaids

I thought I would hate Bridesmaids--I tend to loath films that pander to women and end up digging them even deeper into the demeaning morass where they are forced to wallow by the prevailing misogynist culture. Instead, I liked it quite a lot--an excellent send up of the cliched wedding story, even if the satire wasn't as razor sharp as it could have been. But I laughed so much more than I thought I would--and much more by a long shot than I did watching The Hangover. The women were just plain consistently funny. I also appreciated that, though the men in the film were by no means front and center, at least two of them got some very strong, even hilarious, lines--a big difference from the male buddy movies in which the women are usually throw aways. And so Bridesmaids managed to be a good bad girl buddy film, full of stark and raunchy truths about us, while maintaining our moral superiority. Perhaps, Margaret, there is a God and she's got a helluva sense of humor. In truth, there was still quite a bit of pander in Bridesmaids (the premise itself, the cupcake business, the iheart moments), but there was quite a bit of surprising writing and acting with refreshingly little concern for the male gaze. I am convinced that contrary to what they preach in Hollywood, and the numbers back me up on this one, that men find the woman's perspective refreshing too (and erotic, and challenging, and intriguing). A little less fear from the powers that be and that green light is going to be getting a whole lot of action for women-centric films. (Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath. That's what everyone said after Thelma and Louise--how many years ago now?) In any case, a film that has a scene of a bride in a white gown taking a shit in the middle of a busy street deserves an Oscar (I know, in some other universe, maybe that one in which God is a woman).

As for The Tree of Life, I thought I was going to love it. I've never loved Malick to the degree others have (the way he's always so obviously reaching for profundity makes me cringe--boy was I in for it), but I have always admired his grand ambition and immense filmmaking skills. When I heard people were walking out of The Tree of Life saying the film was nonsense, my pretentious, antipopulist self decided I would love it. I actually found the film very funny, with all those exploding stars, primoridial muck, dinosaurs, Brad Pitt (of the rainbow brood) with the infant's foot and that final scene which made me yearn for more films like Last Year at Marienbad. But it's never really all that fun to be laughing when you're not supposed to be. And I found so much of it tedious--Malick pretending to be Spielberg trying to be Tarkovsky--brought to mind once again the lyrics from that great "Hair" song: And I'm a genius genius/I believe in God/And I believe that God/Believes in Terence/That's me that's me. Though I would tell no one it was a film that had to be seen (Bridesmaids on the other hand I would just), I never really wanted to walk out as it was on the whole nice to look at, the boys were wonderful, the music so very heavy duty Christian but still great to hear. Best comments from the blogosphere: "This film was complete and utter self-absorbed masturbation. American faux-angst, faux-reflection, emotionally-thin bullshit … The sighs of boredom, fidgeting and deflated expectation culminated in cinemagoers at the Curzon Soho today leaving with barely the will to live." -Socialsurgeon; "I think in his desperate search to make the perfect transcendental film, Malick is using a bigger and bigger canvas and taking longer and longer to say less and less. There is nothing in this film that isn't intimated with greater subtlety, sadness, and a truer sense of the sublime in his first three films." -Jeromenewton. As a female viewer, I felt almost entirely excluded, women really having no place at all in this film except as a male fantasy of the perfect mother. Always irritating. I did have a great thought though as I was leaving the cinema: If only God were a woman Malick might have made the epic he was hoping for.

Other films I've seen recentlyish:

Source Code: What a great old-fashioned yet au courant sci-fi thriller that made perfect sense in the end and didn't rely on too much schmalz. Concept brilliant--three cheers for the multiverse theory (did you know that William James coined the term?)--acting by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan adorable. Good chemistry. This was everything that other film with Leonardo di Crappio should have been but wasn't (Inception). Loved Vera Farmiga though the trailer for her new film Higher Ground in which she stars and directs has me worried she wants to be Terence Malick. What's with the God theme these days? Please someone make a film in which it's discovered that God is a lesbian.

Hanna: Opening sequence excellent. All down hill after that though the young actress playing Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) was mega watchable. Action scenes went on too long and blended into each other. First time I've seen Cate Blanchett not totally at the top of her game. Tom Hollander great as evil guy.

Pirates of the Carribean: I love Johnny Depp but even with the excellent decision to get rid of the fey Keira Knightly and bring on my heartthrob Penelope Cruz, this was still so very tired even Jack Sparrow seemed to have trouble keeping his eyes open.

Le Quattro Volte: An Italian version of The Tree of Life. An overdose of pretention. I actually should have walked out of this one it was so unbearable, though the detail of the shepherd ingesting the dust off the church floor to help cure his chronic cough was a nice touch.

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