‘Knight of Cups’
Director: Terrence Malick
Stars: Christian Bale, Natalie Portman
4 (out of 5) Globes
With “Knight of Cups,” Terrence Malick has made what’s essentially a two-hour montage, coated in non-stop orchestral music, flowery narration delivered in hushed tones and anguish elevated into epic proportions. In other words, it’s a Terrence Malick movie. These used to be rare: The filmmaker laid low for 20 years between 1978’s “Days of Heaven” and his comeback, “The Thin Red Line.” Now they’re everywhere; there are at least three more en route, each presumably a lot like the rest. We’ve gone from having too few of them to feeling like there’s too many — one film after another that looks and feels the same, but are still unlike any other.
“Knight of Cups” may be the one that causes fairweather fans to jump ship, even moreso than “To the Wonder” — partly because of repetition, partly because it’s centered on a truly moldy stereotype. The world doesn’t need another movie about a brooding Hollywood player and his empty but debauched life, and it’s just gotten one from one of cinema’s most singular voices. Christian Bale’s Rick is the douche du jour, wandering with a frown and occasionally a booze-soaked grin through parties and girlfriends, sometimes haunted by his aggro dad (Brian Dennehy) and a brother who committed suicide. Malick opens the film with a recording of John Gielgud reciting from “The Pilgrim’s Promise,” but it’s the same old story — a Very Special Episode of “Entourage.”
You could read it that way, or you could give it the benefit of the doubt. You’ve seen this Rick guy before — so, so, so many times — but never quite like this. Even if the subject is old-hat, unworthy of Malick’s cosmic gaze, it gets the Malick treatment anyway. He has a knack for making the familiar and mundane seem rich and strange, as though everything was being experienced for the first time. In “The Tree of Life” he managed to create the sensation of childhood, and the way everything feels new and visceral.