(director/writer: Terrence Malick; cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki.; editors: Rehman Nizar Ali, Hank Corwin, Keith Fraase; cast: Ryan Gosling(BV), Rooney Mara (Faye), Michael Fassbender (Cook), Natalie Portman (Rhonda), Cate Blanchett (Amanda), Holly Hunter (Miranda), Berenice Marlohe (Zoey), Brady Coleman (Faye’s Father), Linda Emond (BV’s Mother Judy), Val Kilmer (Duane), Jalen Jones (Prostitute), Iggy Pop, Patti Smith; Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sarah Green, Nicolas Gonda, Ken Kao; Broad Green; 2017)

The terrific location shots of master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezkic kept me from tuning out this artsy-fartsy love story musicalbefore I got into it.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The romantic dreamer filmmaker, Terrence Malick (“Days of Heaven”/”Knight of Cups”), gives us a soft relationship movie evolving around the rock music scene in the director’s hometown of Austin, Texas. It’s a photo essay type of film that plays to the eye with beautiful visuals of nature pitted against menacing shots of the city’s skyscrapers. It tells of two entangled couples, the struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling) and the record company mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman). The film leaves us scratching our heads, as through a voiceover it blurts out the supposedly profound thoughts of its main characters who flit all around Austin in search of themselves or whatever. It should be noted that when Faye met BV at a party, she worked as a receptionist for Cook. The terrific location shots of master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezkic kept me from tuning out this artsy-fartsy love story musical before I got into it. Faye is an ambitious wannabe guitar playing songwriter who falls for rising star singer-songwriter BV. Faye tells BV, in the film’s most pretentious muttering, “We thought we could just roll and tumble, live from song to song, kiss to kiss.” But they breakup, as BV takes up again with his former girlfriend (Lykke Li) and later gets involved with a socialite (Cate Blanchett). In the meantime Faye gets involved with a Parisian artist (Bérénice Marlohe) that she meets by chance. During this period the manipulative mogul Cook develops a thing for Rhonda, the local waitress, a former kindergarten teacher. He thinks she can be a swinger after he introduces her to the Red Hot Chili Peppers at a music fair and she seems like a free spirit. But when she seeks marriage instead, he marries her and is frustrated she isn’t into orgies. Which means she’s no longer featured in the film, as they split. That also goes for her mom, played by Holly Hunter.Val Kilmer provides comic relief as a rocker who destroys his speakers with a chainsaw. Patti Smith appears as a mentor to Faye. Iggy Pop tells an anecdote backstage at an outdoor concert. The pic seems off-key when it tells us through the hapless Faye “that any experience is better than no experience.” Well, I think not. It’s the first Malick film I couldn’t warm up to, but still think maybe there’s something sublime about it that I might have missed because of its fractured style of filming.