Film Review: Knight Of Cups

Posted in Reviews, Top Stories by - March 20, 2016
Film Review: Knight Of Cups

A man wanders around in the desert. Is he in California? Is it Nevada? Is he somewhere, in a more exotic place, perhaps? Interestingly enough, this quick little band of questions is really par for the coarse in Terrence Malick’s latest experiment, “Knight of Cups.” Just for the record, the title represents a figure from the Tarot cards, as do the headers for each section, or chapter of the movie. They are as follows: “The Moon,” “The Hanged Man,” “The Hermit,” “Judgement,” “The Tower,” “The High Priestess,” “Death” and “Freedom.” As far as what these symbols or cards mean in real life or for whom or what they represent within the film, you will simply have to make that assessment for yourself. I think even the director would agree that, like life, it is a personal adventure and/ or experience.

Allow me to lift the veil of artistry, working as a great façade to the real story of the movie. Rick, played by Christian Bale (“The Big Short”), is a prototypical playboy from Hollywood. We see his life behind the cameras and in front of them, as well. We see his interactions, short on speech, but long on inner thought, with those around him, primarily beautiful women. You might perceive that for much of the film, when the women are, individually, centered at the section of the story, that the camera shows each woman from a higher vantage point than that of Rick. The two exceptions are: Nancy, played by Cate Blanchett (“Carol”), in which Rick is predominantly eye-to-eye, and Elizabeth, played by Natalie Portman (“Thor: the Dark World”), in which she is primarily looking up at Rick. Was any of this done on purpose? Do the potential symbols and meanings matter much, in the grand scheme of the story? Well, again, that would be for each one of YOU to decide. Personally, I would say that Malick was being a bit too fancy for his own good.

With that being said, there was little or nothing to complain about, in terms of the acting performances and the stunning, sweeping visuals of the movie. Alas, the aforementioned chapter breaks in the story left me confused and distracted: confused as to what the chapters were referring to, going in, and distracted, because I was mentally attempting to keep track of what chapter we were on and wondering if I would be able to sense which one is the last one. Just ask yourself this question before you even see this film: is wayward thinking and a need for research on Tarot cards, afterwards, really something you would look forward to when you watch ANY movie? I would safely say, probably not.

It is worth noting that Brian Dennehy, (“The Big Year”) as Joseph, is the key figure as a narrator for the entire story. Although the voice-overs are sketchy and whimsical in nature, there are several words, commonly used in his vocabulary, about life: the pilgrim and the pearl, with “pearl” being the most common. Apparently, these terms reflect inspiration from two classic pieces of literature: “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and

“Hymn of the Pearl.” Unfortunately, the depth of these terms are never really explained during any point of the movie and aside from a handful of revelatory moments, I could not tell you what they really mean. Remember, you need to embrace self-discovery! Do I suddenly sound pretentious and condescending? That strikes ME as being ironic, yet very fitting.

I will not hold back any longer. Many patrons walked out on the film long before it had concluded. Even in times such as this, I would NEVER encourage that kind of behavior. I realize it might be easier to just put down a boring book or leave a theater when you are un-entertained or just lost from the story, but think about how you feel or WOULD feel if you were in the throws of a specific, great moment in your life. Is it not better to at least be able to say that you “saw it to the end,” no matter HOW hard or painful it might have been for you? What if you changed your mind before the end was out? You will never know unless you are there. What do you know?! It is a teachable moment! From a film, no less!

All levity aside, unless you are prepared to focus and concentrate on the story, without letting any frustration or confusion get to you, I simply CANNOT recommend “Knight of Cups” as anything more than a semi-forgettable, empty-staged, beautifully produced (superficially-speaking) work of incoherent mellow-drama. Once again, director Terrence Malick is seemingly trying TOO hard to be unique and artistic. If you can make complete sense out of this disjointed, but visually captivating film, just picture me giving you the “thumbs-up” or “tipping my (imaginary) hat” towards you, ALL with a straight face, I might add.

Official Trailer:

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