#REVIEW: “SONG TO SONG”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
“Any experience is better than no experience” feels almost like warning when Rooney Mara’s Faye whispers the words in Song to Song’s opening minutes. From carefully constructed cutaways to the cunning use of unsung cameos, every minute of a Terrence Malick Movie is painstakingly put together to create an event for the audience. Film connoisseurs either love or hate Malick and will argue their side vehemently: each claiming the auteur Director as either the death of Film or its savior. Since breathy voice-overs are a Malick staple, I thought we should use his own words to guide us through this latest visit to MalickLand™.
“Live from song to song, kiss to kiss.” The love triangle between Faye, Cook (Michael Fassbender), and BV (Ryan Gosling) feels more chaotic than a SXSW mosh pit in this homage to modern sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Faye is depicted as a promiscuous ingénue who is willing to sleep with whomever necessary to achieve her dreams. Cook is the cold music producer who holds her future and BV the oblivious singer/songwriter who holds her heart. Their story is told in brief scenes against a backdrop across outdoor music concerts and million dollar homes. Along for the ride are cardboard clichés Rhonda, the kindergarten teacher turned diner waitress; Zoey, the lesbian; and Amanda, the older woman.
“I’ve always been afraid to be myself.” The performances in this Film are difficult to gage. Fassbender and Gosling seem to be having the most fun: many of their scenes together appear to be outtakes from when the camera wasn’t supposed to be rolling. In stark contrast, Natalie Portman seems miserable throughout. Her Rhonda, who is more afraid of opening an umbrella indoors than taking drugs, ages before the audience’s eyes as her character’s despair increases with every scene. If this trio seem at odds, then it should be Mara who unites them. Instead she adds to the thematic chaos with an uneven performance that contrasts the certainty of her narration with the lost waif she is attempting to portray.
“Follow the light.” Malick is a Director who thrives on creating an aesthetic of what he perceives as beautiful: people, settings, music, and emotions are always captured at their most striking. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s lens loves to play with light and shadow and never relents in its search for the prefect moment. Whether he’s giving us a guided tour of Cook’s house or dancing through the desert, the eye is immediately drawn to a single ray of light coming through a window or the soft waves created in a pool of water. Even the final message that the music scene is fake and reality is ugly is undercut by the camera’s almost sensual stalking of Gosling’s final moments.
“There’s something else. Something that wants us to find it.” In Malick tradition, everyone in Song to Song seems to speak in coded metaphor meant for film students to dissect decades from now. Characters rarely seem to speak to each other but when the narrative voiceovers pause, music fills the silence not to propel the story but as a miscast observer who isn’t quite sure what they’re doing there.
“I won’t stop loving you. I don’t think I can.” Like any Terrence Malick movie, Song to Song is hard to describe and harder to love. The Director’s disciples will believe it to be a triumph that non-believers simply don’t have the capacity to understand. His detractors will say Malick is on a self-indulgent roll to obscurity after To the Wonder and Knight of Cups. Both groups will not so secretly wonder if he is capable of rediscovering narrative greatness or if perhaps the days of The Thin Red Line are behind him.
“Sometimes the truth isn’t the right thing to say.” At the end of the day you want to know if you should go see Song to Song. The simple answer is: I don’t know. Song to Song is a beautifully shot, two-hour long Film with no explosions or crescendos, and a thin plot there only to move the A-list cast across the screen while the audience marvels as Malick’s ability to be Malick. At the end of the movie-going day, perhaps “any experience is better than no experience.”.
eOne Films release SONG TO SONG Friday, April 7, 2017.