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Robert Redford’s Vancouver movie, Michael Bay’s Miami comedy and Terrence Malick on the wonder of love

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TO THE WONDER: Maybe you thought Terrence Malick’s last film, The Tree of Life, big bang, dinosaurs and all, was a little too easy to figure out. No such problem here, I assure you. For almost two hours there’s almost no talk, just vague muttering in the distance by voices we’d like to hear: Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams. What exposition there is comes in whispered voice overs, mostly from Olga Kurylenko. They don’t help though since they’re usually along the lines of “What is this love that loves us?”or “What are we when we are there?”

 

Malick doesn’t explain so I’ll hazard an interpretation. If Tree of Life was a musing on the meaning of his brother’s death, To the Wonder probably is introspective about his own life. He lived in Europe, came back to the U.S. with a wife he married over there and found the relationship crack apart. In the film, Ben Affleck brings Olga and her daughter to Oklahoma where he works in the oil industry. A subdivision on the edge of rural America is boring compared to Paris and Olga goes back. Ben sees an old flame (Rachel McAdams) and a local priest (Javier Bardem) worries that he can’t feel God within himself anymore. Beautiful pictures, usually of the natural world, dress up these overly abstract contemplations on love, spirituality and philosophy. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 3 out of 5

THE BIG WEDDING:  I never gave a thought, before this film, to how little I wanted to see Robert De Niro “go down” on Susan Sarandon. But there he is, right at the beginning, his face framed by her knees, setting the tone for this weak attempt at a crude comedy.  Later, he’ll fall into a swimming pool and get a rude reminder that this is also a Katherine Heigl film, something of a genre of its own these days. She throws up on his nice white suit. Mere morning sickness apparently isn’t enough of a plot signal these days. Diane Keaton, Amanda  Seyfried and Robin Williams are also in this movie which has more stars than laughs.

 

De Niro and Keaton play a divorced couple who have to pretend they’re still married. Their adopted son is getting married; his birth mother is coming from Columbia and she, a strict Catholic, considers divorce a sin. Williams plays the priest and Sarandon is temporarily demoted from De Niro’s bed. She’ll cater the wedding.  You can see the many possibilities in the situation can’t you? Well, the film tries hard and often for laughs, but gets few. It contrives opportunities to be and speak raunchy.  This is a remake of a Swiss film which I imagine was much more subtle. The mother in that one came from Viet Nam. (International Village and several suburban theatres) 1 ½ out of 5

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE: You won’t be able to avoid getting involved with this one. You’ll probably be immersed in it because this is storytelling without flash, without tricky editing but with heart and believable characters. And courage to break rules. The first scene for instance, lasts 14 minutes but is never boring because of its clever construction. It’s in a café and for a long time we’re watching people at the wrong table. Then the camera shifts to the people we’ve actually been listening to and we get a complete set up to the story.

 

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