Song to Song
Starring Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Holly Hunter
SXSW2017 opened with Austin legend Terrence Malick’s latest “cinematic poetry”, or at least that’s the positive spin fans used to describe it. When asked about working with the complicated, misunderstood and elusive Texan director, Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) described the experience as “rough”. Fassbender (Steve Jobs) explained how difficult it was working with no script, and Gosling (La La Land) used words like “interesting” and “unique”. This has become common language for actors working with Malick. Song to Song was shot back in 2013 in and around Austin, TX, but Malick’s editing process takes years because he shoots so much random footage that must be assembled. Shot consecutively with his previous Knight of Cups, also starring Blanchett and Portman, is basically the same movie but in Los Angeles. Both films have the same theme: about everything and nothing at the same time.
Cook (Fassbender) is a music producer in Austin, finding and signing new talent in a variety of genres and outlets. His assistant, and occasional romance with Faye (Mara) means she gets to attend music events, marking her introduction to Bv (Rosling) whom she falls for instantly. For a time, the three are tight knit friends, soaking up music, flying around in private jets, and pining for each other’s company. Cook suddenly wants what he can’t have, abandons the friendship for local diner waitress Rhonda (Portman). The men continue to produce music together until their friendship reaches its conclusion, corresponding with the men unhappy in their life decisions.
Malik’s attention deficient disorder continues to be the driving force in his projects, only the cast members and the location separates one movie from the others.
Malick combines a variety of camera styles here, including iPhone shots of various butterflies, pavement, and even a grasshopper. He is particularly interested in carpet and fibers this time with endless scenes of Fassbender laying on carpet. It’s the same sparse dialogue, the actors hair color and length vary from shot to shot with no explanation, as if incoherently pieced together to drive those who crave structure insane. The entire movie feels like someone attempted to edit random phone capture videos into some themed storyline. If the description for Song to Song didn’t tell the viewer it was about the Austin music scene, you likely wouldn’t discern that on your own. Besides featuring Iggy Pop in one scene, Patti Smith in a few others, the erratic weaving of scenes lull the viewer to sleep.
Most of the characters attitudes, vehicles and properties are beyond pretentious, Blanchett pops up three fourths of the way as one of Gosling’s new girlfriends and they boat on Lake Travis and frolic around million dollar homes. One voice over line from Mara, “I show apartments” is supposed to explain why every scene takes places in a different house or venue. For Mara, this role feels similar to her Oscar nominated performance in Carol. Flighty, sexual confused, week female, strung along by whichever complicated relationship she happens to be in. Malick’s attention deficient disorder continues to be the driving force in his projects, only the cast members and the location separates one movie from the others.
Malick continues to befuddle audiences by wasting great actors time on non-sense.