Movie Review: “Song to Song” shows Malick at his most atonal…and anal

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So iconoclastic filmmaker Terrence Malick shows up at Austin’s South by Southwest music festival with a camera crew, a cluster of adoring movie stars and no real story.

And the result is “Song to Song,” a rambling, insomnia-curing meditation on music and the musical life that has too little of either to make any sense at all.

Incoherent? Yeah. Random, too. Not to point out how far Malick’s been crawling up his own bum the past ten years, but let’s just say he’s lucky  “Song” didn’t find polyps, which he would have been tempted to show us.

As has been his habit for years, he’s “scripted” the movie out of what he’s shot. So the story, such as it is, and the dialogue if you can call it that is mostly after-thought and voice-over. He’s shot a silent film with sound, and “fixed” it with voice over — the lazy movie-maker’s crutch.

“Song” is an improvised-feeling tale of ambition and love triangles — “Jules and Jim” with Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender as the pals pursuing the wannabe played by Rooney Mara.

She’s a guitarist looking for a break, aspiring for fame and a career, but mumbling nonsense about wanting the “simple” life “living from song to song.”

Natalie Portman breaks that triangle, playing a dishy waitress charmed by the producer (Fassbender) who notices the important things about the rich guy.

“You have everything.”

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Gosling has never looked more beautiful on camera, Portman never sexier. But the performances don’t register. At all. The dialogue ranges from inane to tedious.

There are musician (Iggy and Patty and assorted Chili Peppers) and actor (Val Kilmer) cameos . Some pointless conversations take place backstage, in a mosh pit or at posh parties tied to this vast music festival.

And here’s what’s memorable — Holly Hunter, as the mother of one of the characters, weeping and lurching about an empty Sears parking lot.  Patty Smith going on and on about her life and her late husband.

Some critics bought into and let Malick get away with his indulgent piffle, “The Tree of Life,” and he’s honored that graded-on-the-curve pass by giving us “To the Wonder,” “Knight of Cups” and this. They’re movies only inside the brilliant man’s head.

This is crap. Which is what everybody finds if they stick their heads far enough up their you-know-what.

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MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality, nudity, drug use and language
Cast: Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Holly Hunter
Credits: Written and directed by Terrence Malick. A Broad Green release.
Running time: 2:09

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