Malick’s latest film features two love triangles

Filmby Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Song to Song
Broadway Theatre
June 16–21
2 out of 5

It’s bit pointless to judge Terrence Malick’s more recent films by traditional standards. His disregard for conventional plotting adds considerable difficulty for audiences to appreciate his work (it’s not impenetrable like Godard, but is up there).

The best way to appreciate Song to Song is by comparing it to the rest of Malik’s movies, from the unbearable Knight of Cups to the majestic The New World. Song to Song is… tolerable. The freewheeling lyricism is there, but there’s a clear concept to sustain it, and a basic narrative that makes the film easier to follow.

The film revolves around an Austin-based recording exec, Cook (a slimy Michael Fassbender), the intersecting point of two love triangles. The first pits him against his best friend and protégé BV (Ryan Gosling) for the affections of Faye (Rooney Mara), a wannabe singer with daddy issues. A second triangle forms with the arrival of Rhonda (Natalie Portman), a trusting waitress who falls for Cook’s wiles.

Song to Song is at its core a meditation on the ephemeral nature of love and the yearning — so much yearning — for unattainable satisfaction. Audiences are punished with the inner monologues of all four leads, plus Cate Blanchett for good measure.

That said, it’s possible to connect with Song to Song emotionally — if at surface level. Gosling is self-aware enough to counteract the pomposity of the proceedings, but it’s not his movie. Fassbender is at the centre of this universe, a corrupting force those around him fail to notice until it’s too late.

Through the over two hours of whining, one becomes thankful for small mercies. Cinematographer “Chivo” Lubezki can make the most prosaic of setups look beautiful. Several musicians provide cameos to give the tale some verisimilitude. Natalie Portman and Rooney Mara’s faces are so lovingly shot, their beauty becomes entrancing.

Val Kilmer gets one scene as a wild-man past his prime and steals the movie. You want to see more of him, but no dice. See, Malick doesn’t make movies for you or me. Maybe he just gets a kick out of people trying to rationalize his work. ❧