Knight of Cups ★★


Me, reviewing To the Wonder: "I do hope his next film will cut back on shots in which the camera rushes pell-mell toward a retreating figure, which is beginning to seem like a default affectation. He's taken this particular style about as far as it can go."


As I feared, this is basically Tree of Life's Sean Penn segments expanded into a two-hour movie of their own, featuring a rotating guest cast of hot chicks. The more intently Malick focuses on a stand-in's spiritual crisis, the more gorgeously empty I find his work; Bale's non-performance here crosses the line from expressively blank into actively lost (excluding moments when he just looks smug canoodling with some woman), and situating this aesthetic in Los Angeles—with generic movers and shakers providing inane background chatter that sharply contrasts with the usual searching voiceover narration—heightens what had already been a latent feeling of unbecoming whininess. I'm decidedly not one of those people who now feels hostile toward any story about a rich white dude's not-exactly-life-threatening problems, but Knight of Cups, with its whirligig woe-is-me vacuousness, got me as close to that dismissive viewpoint as I've ever been. Ultimately, I just did not care about Rick or his quixotic quest for fulfillment, and Malick's restless, glancing spontaneity has grown so familiar that I no longer find it transporting enough to compensate.