To the Wonder
It says much about how highly regarded was the legendary film critic Roger Ebert, who sadly passed away last week at the age of 70, that his final ever review is generating publicity. The film is Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, which tells the story of Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil (Ben Affleck), who meet in France and move to Oklahoma to start a life together. Marina becomes friends with a priest and fellow expatriate (Javier Bardem), while Neil rekindles a relationship with childhood sweetheart, Jane (Rachel McAdams).
In a directorial career stretching some 40 years, it’s incredible to think that this is only Malick’s sixth feature (although along with Tree of Life and The New World, it’s the 69-year-old’s third movie in less than a decade).
To be sure, the movie isn’t eliciting rave reviews from everyone. TIME’s Richard Corliss manages to see both sides of the debate. “For spectators dulled by the midget movies of an artistically timid era, the film may be a chore. For those on Malick’s rarified wavelength, it’s a wonder,” he concludes. But New York magazine calls the film “generalized woo-woo — and self-parody” while the Observer turns up its nose, noting that “the characters have little substance or development” and the “dialogue is minimal and deliberately semi-audible.” Meanwhile, the Daily Mail delivers an outright pan, calling the film “a prolonged exercise in directorial self-pleasuring;” the real wonder, it states, is “that To The Wonder ever found a release.”
But if there was one thing we could rely on when it came to Ebert, it was his refusal to run with the crowd. In an unabashed thumbs up, his final words both acknowledge Malick’s faults while embracing the film as a whole.
There will be many who find “To the Wonder” elusive and too effervescent. They’ll be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need.
RICHARD CORLISS ON ROGER EBERT: Farewell to a Film Legend and Friend
Tagline: In a game divided by color, he made us see greatness.
Such was the indelible impact made by Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play professional baseball in the modern era, that his shirt number, 42, was the first to be retired in professional sports. A little over 15 years since that landmark moment, a movie on his life — and the role of Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey in helping Robinson break the color barrier — has been released.
Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson while Harrison Ford takes on the role of Rickey, who signed Robinson for the Dodgers. But while the movie could get a bump with its release timed to coincide with Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 , the early word on 42 is that the film’s title could end up higher than its Rotten Tomatoes score. “A relentlessly formulaic biopic that succeeds at transforming one of the most compelling sports narratives of the 20th century into a home run of hagiography,” yawns Variety. “A too self-consciously inspiring rendition of Jackie Robinson’s genuinely inspiring accomplishment of breaking baseball’s color barrier,” concludes the Hollywood Reporter. And Screen Daily thinks that “the film feels subdued and a little stiff, as if afraid to add too much drama or cinematic style to the historical facts.” But Movie Nation, while perhaps stopping short of giving it the reviewer’s equivalent of a home run, surely scores it as a triple. “Earnest, righteous, overlong but very entertaining, and darned accurate as history.”
MORE: Going Places With Chadwick Boseman
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Even though Terrence Malick movies aren’t quite as rare as they once were, it still feels like an event, and To the Wonder wins out as the choice of the week.