Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
Malick’s films often defy an ordinary plot summary. They’re about so much without being about anything really in particular. SONG TO SONG continues this trend, taking us on a hypnotic trail through the music scene in Austin, Texas. Ryan Gosling plays BV, our closest thing to a primary protagonist. While rising up through the ranks with the help of already established musician Cook (Michael Fassbender), BV falls in love. He develops feelings for Faye (Rooney Mara). Faye, however, is also dating Cook, and as they all try to make a living for themselves, they each tangent off into other relationships and dark obsessions.
The film is long and slow, able to grasp your attention through its existential, artsy mind frame. It’s a gorgeous tale of love and music, focusing more on the people than it is the story, but there’s a dreadful feeling of self-superiority oozing within every scene. This is Terrence Malick at his most Terrence Malick, both for better and for worse. The only real link the audience is allowed to hold onto is through these actors, who are engaging enough in their own right to make this a somewhat enjoyable movie. SONG TO SONG is essentially a group of remarkable talents acting for the sake of acting. That alone makes it worth the price of admission, or maybe the price of an at home rental.
Being different doesn’t automatically equate to being good, something Malick needs to understand. SONG TO SONG goes out of its way to be unconventional. Everything flows in a non-linear fashion, and this artfulness often speaks its mind, but in the progress winds up loosing audience members. The editing cuts back and forth through time, confusing character relations and making them indecipherable. Characters will be dating someone in one scene, followed by a montage of them with a person they broke up with earlier, and then it cuts back to them dating a completely different person. Time is in an endless, INTERSTELLAR-styled loop with a varying display of haircuts, and Mathew McConaughey is nowhere to be found.
Unfortunately SONG TO SONG remains a cycle of events with no link. Again, the editor must’ve had a nightmare trying to piece together a story out of the footage provided, and it’s a job I can’t comprehend. The original cut of this film clocked in at EIGHT hours long, yet throughout all eight hours there’s hardly a story to be found. Malick isn’t saying anything. He’s directing without purpose. It’s fun to watch these actors just exist, but their stories lack depth. They’re just all of a sudden in a certain place at a certain time. Every line is a throwaway line. There’s beautiful moments scattered throughout, and it is an encapsulation of life itself, but reality doesn’t always equal the best movie.
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