Has Terrance Malick lost his touch as a director? That is the question that was raised during my viewing of Song to Song, Malick’s latest film. Now, hopefully Malick is just making more personal pieces for himself, as that what it almost seems like. Because the director of Badlands (1973) is capable of much more than this.
Before we delve into the bad, let’s talk about the good. Like all Malick movies, the movie looks beautiful. If the Song to Song did not look as good as it does, it would be nearly unwatchable. Besides how the film looks, certain scenes utilize music quite well. For example, in a montage of Cook (Michael Fassbender) and Rhonda’s (Natalie Portman) relationship is edited in such a terrific way that makes it really stand out in the movie in a good way.
As far as the bad goes, there is a lot to cover. First off, the way Malick wrote the love stories came off as very unrealistic. Instead of having characters show their love for each other with meaningful dialogue, they just kind of touch each-other’s faces and stare into their eyes. On top of that, the characters are also spouting cliché dialogue about how “in love” they are with each-other. By the end of the film, the relationships with the characters all feel distant from the viewer, not really being able to see the chemistry that the characters have with each other. In some scenes, the music overpowered the dialogue which was irritating as well as a very weird choice. Possibly, if the music fit well with the scenes, it would be more excusable; there are many misses and very few hits when it comes to how the music choice represents the film, tonally. All the characters were forgettable but Faye, (Rooney Mara) was easily the most unlikable of the main four characters. Most of what Faye did was make the same face for most of the movie whilst sulking most of the time. At least she has some parts where she narrates pretentiously just like the rest of the characters do.
The wasted potential of a project like Song to Song is what is the saddest part of it all. As Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, and Natalie Portman all in a movie together with Terrance Malick directing and writing should be nothing short of incredible. But, all it turned out to be was a beautifully looking, self-indulgent film lacking substance. If you did not like To the Wonder (2012) or Knight of Cups (2015) then you will not like Song to Song.