Critic Review - Philadelphia Inquirer

[It] not only aspires to change your life - it tries to explain it, from the first cosmic blip to those busy amoebae splitting and multiplying, to jellyfish jellying through the primal seas, to the planets lined up in a row.

June 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | Comments (28)
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Helen Lakatos

Wow. Exactly where did this movie aspire to change one's life?? Of the ten unrelated people in a meetup group with whom I saw it, only one vaguely enjoyed the disconnected images. This was the most awful movie I've ever had to sit through, and I wanted to leave after ten minutes. I felt apologetic to my partner who I convinced to see it based on the fantastic trailer that was obviously edited together by someone other than who made the movie.

Showing a dinosaur having compassion for its potential prey and passing up on having dinner is an example of the biggest hooey I've ever seen in what you review as so amazing.

Sean Penn was not a "star" in this movie whatsoever - his appearance and lack of acting, lack of words add up to what could be called a "cameo" role.

I could go on and on about the pathetic editing of disconnected images of inane behaviors with no storyline whatsoever, but why waste my time and others? I mean, there was nothing that could even be discussed or theoretically argued about regarding religious values. The consensus was just an amateur production of clips spliced together, using big name, mostly successful stars as a way to rob the public of its money.

Avoid this movie like the plague!

Jun 28 - 03:20 PM

allister w.

allister w

Amazon blonde (the blonde part is laughingly apt) your reply inspires an even greater "wow!" Wow, how film as art and potentially even sacramental expression, alarmingly flies over you add head. I was not sure whether to laugh at such grotesque ignorance or vomit.

Oct 11 - 05:54 PM

Eric Matthews

Eric Matthews

Yeah Amazon hit the nail on the head. I will not flower my words to try and impress what taking english in college taught me but speak only of the truth.

This movie had no direction. A distorted storyline. Overall is mind numbing to watch. Only does it become effective when used as white noise to put you to sleep.

"Avoid this movie like the plague!"

Jul 8 - 07:15 PM


Tim Nurphy

Is this a serious statement AmazonBlond? Is this the first movie you've ever seen? Tree of Life is one of the most original movies ever made, and to say that its not worth viewing for 2 hours is the most insanely idiotic thing I've ever heard. Let me guess, you loved Green Lantern. I've never said this about anyone who disliked a movie, but based on your statements, you are simply not very intelligent and not very interesting. It would be a sad thing to have to be you. I'm sorry.

Jun 29 - 06:18 PM


Peter Kim


So AmazonBlonde is "not very intelligent and not very interesting" because he/she disliked the movie?

Just because a movie is original does not make it a good movie. So I can go film someone stapling paper for 2 hours and you would enjoy it because its never been done before?

At least AmazonBlonde gave a clear and honest opinion about what he/she disliked about the movie. You came up with the most unoriginal reason why a movie is worth watching: "[It's] one of the most original movies ever made." Maybe a little self-reflection will help you realize where your misplaced animosity should be directed.

Jul 2 - 04:31 PM

Bill Katz

Bill Katz

Is this a serious statement by Tmurph824? Have you never seen a masterpiece film before so you have to elevate a poorly edited and written movie into the masterpiece territory?

I *love* film. I don't love impressionistic or abstract films, but I'm more than willing to give the writer/director my time to see if they can give me a new experience. The Tree of Life certainly failed for me. I'm not some scientific bumpkin that needs to have the universe explained in an ambiguous collection of visually compelling but completely ORTHOGONAL scenes. Why is it ambiguous? Because it tells me nothing about God or the lack of God. The story, the plot, is minimal. The editing is horrible. Much like Victorian fiction is viewed as slow and verbose (but still capable of producing masterpieces) compared to modern fiction, this film is extremely slow and visually verbose. Modern audiences have watched many films before and are quicker on the uptake. Rather than say viewers have no patience now, you can say viewers can more easily grasp concepts now and don't need to have something bludgeoned into their subconscious. Do we really need to have a long excursion into galactic pictures? Sure, if it's the vision of the artist, show us the galaxy and evolution, but the length was messed up.

If you look at these scenes and ask "Why did the writer/director include this scene?", you'll probably have a hit rate of 70%. True art is measured by not being able to take away anything and have it impact the impression, the message. Even the visual chapter markings (i.e., the wavy, undulating lines between major parts) dragged on.

Aug 21 - 07:46 AM


Mark Buday

If this was the most awful movie you've ever had to sit through im guessing you haven't seen a lot of movies. People will either love or hate this movie, but if you watch the whole thing you cant really deny that its an inspired achievement with some wonderful performances. I enjoyed it for what it was, but the ending was pretty ridiculous.

Jul 9 - 01:20 AM


Helen Lakatos

My partner and I are film buffs and watch 1-2 movies every day, and have been for most of our lives. We probably know more actor and movie names than most people. In fact, a former co-worker we bumped into tonight even touted that fact to me about my partner. So for two of you to say I didn't see many movies shows your immaturity at jumping to conclusions.

I didn't say the performances were good. They were. I can see the film's good points, but they weren't enough. A movie has to flow together, and this one doesn't; even the positive reviewers admit that, and I'm not talking about the non-linear presentation, because that didn't bother me a bit, being a fan of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I didn't go into a long list of all the things I liked and all the things I didn't like because quite frankly I don't have to. I am not being paid to review the entire film. I threw out there my (and actually our) overall dislike of the film as a whole because we both felt the film was edited horribly, and we have found that many, many, people share that same view.

There are many who call this movie pretentious and boring. What is interesting is that so many who did like the movie pretentiously condescend toward those who dare to say they don't like it. What is it with those of you who think you have the entitlement to insult others who are honest about not liking something you don't like? Did you know that is called bullying?

There are hundreds and hundreds of people across the country not only disliking it, but walking out and even upset enough to ask for refunds!

While I would never ask for a refund unless the environment or film broke, etc. this is proof that this movie should not be simply rated 4 stars by any critic who likes it, but should include a note to the effect that it has had extremely polarizing effects. Our local Philadelphia area theaters have had such problems with upset audiences that they are now posting signs to warn people of the problem, so they can choose something else if they think they may not like it.

Some theaters realize the problem is so great, they are giving refunds or free tickets to other performances if people leave during the first half hour. We stayed to the end, as we wanted to figure out exactly what we paid for and to discuss with a group of unrelated others who also did NOT like the film. Those of us who did not like the film did not condescend the fellow who liked the film, just considered his taste different.

Jul 9 - 08:46 PM

John Heuer

John Heuer


I find your opinion very suspect when you gave 100% to: Star Trek, Miss Pettigrew, Sex and the City, Night at the Museum 2, Tropic Thunder, and Sherlock Holmes.

By the way, The editing in The Tree of life was fantastic. It's just a different style of editing. Learning to match action is like first day stuff for film students. Everyone can do that, they were going for a different thing... it doesn't mean its bad, it just means it's different. But what do I know, I only have a degree in film... silly me.

Also there is a very clear story going on, with a very clear point to it... but you have to use your brain a little to understand it. Maybe when you aren't as closed-minded, you might give the film another shot.

Jul 21 - 08:39 AM

Bill Katz

Bill Katz

Wow, not only are you pompous but you are assuming there is one way to judge editing and it's yours, and this one was fantastic. I can also make a film that states its "clear point" up front in a message and then proceed to include dozens of scenes that are orthogonal to either the "clear story" or its central point. That, film degree owner, is one definition of self-indulgent and poorly edited. If you want to argue the editing is fantastic, then the intended story is not so clear or simple but the one artist-wannabes infuse into the film by outside sources, interviews, and the like.

Aug 21 - 07:58 AM

Grand M.

Grand Mesa

"A degree in film" ? How does one get a degree in film? Is that like PE?.....just something to take to pass the time away?
Some people actually work in film and have built in instincts.
Do you know what "instincts" are. You either have 'it' or you don't.
No John,you won't find 'it' in your back yard.

Jan 5 - 08:51 AM

Michael P.

Michael Patison

I'm sorry y'all felt that way. I guess I just might add that its a Terrence Malick film, which should tell you something right off the bat. No matter his subject matter, his films contain notable amounts of more contemplative plot.

Aug 1 - 03:38 PM

allister w.

allister w

Well, it goes to show that some opinions simply do not count.

We are inundated with a growing number of filmgoers who see film merely as entertainment.

Of course, it has to have zippy pacing, of course it has to be linear narrative. Film as art? Film as dream? Film as potry? That is alien.
You should be forced to go to a Tarkovsky festival. Perhaps something would seep in.

Oct 11 - 06:00 PM

Movie F.

Movie Fan

People don't seem to understand that this movie isn't about people. It's about an idea. It's not about religion, it's about what religion represents. The actors were used as a means of interpreting the idea of what religion represents. The tale of the family is means of personifying the spiritual concept of the film and is a segue to Sean Penn's character as a means of explaining the afterlife. So to say that the movie needed more Penn is like asking for more cowbell when everyone knows it's just used as an accent.

Jul 15 - 02:46 PM

Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson

Agreed... Those raised on simple, straight forward narrative and films that do no challenge, often do not wish to be bothered with things outside their comfort zone... citing a film like 'eternal sunshine..' or 'pulp fiction' as being badges of how you like non-linear art films doesn't even make sense, since both of those films were designed to be accessible and appeal to a large enough market to make money... this film was not. I realize the concept of an 'art film' is hard for some to wrap their head around, but don't blame others (and 85% of critics) for understanding something you didn't.

Sep 21 - 06:46 AM

Kirk S.

Kirk Stock

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

Jun 6 - 01:51 PM

Grand M.

Grand Mesa

After reading a few critiques on this film by so-called "professional critics", I now know they are full of themselves and don't have a clue!!
This film was just plain boring with a director who doesn't know how to direct and an editor who is spaced out on a sugar cube!

Nov 17 - 02:45 AM


werwer fcdvb

You're a lost cause if you think this film is boring. You just don't appreciate movies if you can't see the beauty and perfection in this film. Go watch your sherlock holmes and super hero movies where you belong.

Sep 19 - 07:27 AM

Grand M.

Grand Mesa

Mr. Rea, I think I would get more enjoyment hitting your toes with a sledge hammer!

Nov 17 - 06:30 AM

Kirk S.

Kirk Stock

You know, there are probably a lot of people who'd like to beat your toes with a sledgehammer, considering you gave Blue Velvet a 10%.

Jun 6 - 01:53 PM

Reid Razalas

Reid Razalas

This film is so genuine and honest that it becomes very difficult to criticize it. No matter how you interpret this film, you can not deny the humbleness it aspires to achieve. Editing and linear narrative become obsolete when dealing with movies like these. Subjectivity is all that is left. Basic acceptance. This film is inspiring.

Jan 3 - 02:16 AM

Grand M.

Grand Mesa

Then watching paint dry would be a great achievement for you.

Jan 5 - 08:52 AM

Grand M.

Grand Mesa

Steve, is that an off-shoot of the rag that is sold at the checkout stand in the grocery store?
You should be reviewing tomatoes.

Jan 5 - 08:54 AM

Russ Haines

Russ Haines

To me, There is no doubt that terrance mallicks style is
somewhat challanging as revealed in the first films "Badlands, days of heaven ,thin redline, new world " etc, but for me its always been about the visual that attracts me to his style.
After after watching tree of life for the first time,[march 2 2012] it comes as no surprise to see a few negative & critical comments.
i always say, expect the unexpected with terrance Mallick, but soak up the visual & the smallest of dialoge as it should repeat itself in your mind, days, weeks & sometimes years afterwards to soon reveal to you, that he really is the master of the art of Movie.

Mar 2 - 02:21 PM

Peter Mitchell

Peter Mitchell

Movies are here to tell a story in an entertaining way; in order for the viewer to passively admire a story unfolding and ultimately coming to a conclusion. That is cinema.

This 'movie' is not good. It could possibly pass as an art installation, [kind of like what that guy who won the turner prize for creating an empty room did]. I think many of the reviews by people who genuinely enjoyed it are looking at it as such, and fair enough, if your thing is sitting in a room for two hours watching lights turn on and off. This is opposed to the reviewers who think they ought to and therefore are pretending to like it. Either way, the 80-odd percent they are ultimately awarding it on so called 'rotten tomatoes' is absolutely not helping the general movie-going public.

This is almost as big a travesty as the ridiculously good reviews Tropic Thunder got. Totally different genre, but just as big a pile of sh*t.

Mar 15 - 07:21 PM

D A.

D Alexander

I can understand how a moviegoer would not like this FILM. And i can see how some would feel cheated from the trailers mainly because all they saw were the names Sean Penn and Brad Pitt. This should not even be on Rotten Tomatoes for review. It's way over the heads of the people who frequently read & post reviews here. It's like taking American Idol fans to an Opera or Symphony and expecting them to enjoy it. I thought this film was visually stunning, acting superb and story well delivered. The boy who played young Jack gave a performance that tied beautifully together with Sean Penn's older Jack. In fact all the acting showed how emotions and story can be told without a lot of dialogue. I believe one persons review said you have to understand that the film is about an idea. I would agree with that. It stirred many emotions for me. When Jack was thinking about dropping the car on his Father to kill him was one in particular. Disturbing but a real thought played with subtlety along with many other moments. For me it explored life on the grand scale juxtaposed with our smaller human experiences within it. Malick is a rare talent and stays true to his style and visions. Trust me he doesn't go to RT to check if people liked it or not.

Apr 20 - 01:06 AM

Jason Bram

Jason Bram

The film is beautiful. Whether you appreciate that beauty or not is an indication what you expect from movies. If you want simple entertainment, this movie won't do it for you. The pure ambition of this film made me like it, and the fact that it almost succeeds at achieving its ambition makes me love it.

Apr 21 - 10:59 PM

Joseph Morelli

Joseph Morelli

"Change your life"? GET a LIFE, BORING FILM

May 19 - 07:23 PM

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