Review: Knight of Cups


DIR/WRI: Terrence Malick  • PRO: Nicolas Gonda, Sarah Green, Ken Kao • DOP: Emmanuel Lubezki • ED: A.J. Edwards, Keith Fraase, Geoffrey Richman, Mark Yoshikawa• DES: Jack Fisk • MUS: Hanan Townshend • CAST: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Freida Pinto, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Wes Bentley

Ah, the rich white male. Truly, no one has it tougher than this enigmatic creature. What’s a guy to do with his youth, good looks, inflated income, swanky apartment and a string of beautiful women wanting to sleep with him? Mope about it of course! Let’s cut to the chase: this film is the love child of a pile of rubbish and a puddle of vomit. Vapidness masquerading as depth, narcissism peddled as existentialism, director Terrence Malick proves with this film that he cannot differentiate between art and pretentiousness.

The ‘plot’, and I’m being generous here, follows burnt-out screenwriter Rick (Christian Bale) as he navigates his way through his relationships, both romantic and familial, and searches for meaning in a life he finds increasingly artificial and alienating. The best way to describe the film’s narrative is meandering – also, pointless. The threads of Rick’s life run parallel to one another and, as such, the audience jumps from to the other without ever feeling a connection to anything happening on screen. The characters are all too vague, their situations too unspecific, to succeed in engaging with the audience on any sort of meaningful level. What little is revealed to us about our protagonists angst, where it came from and why it persists, is never confronted to the extent that it could have been, leaving the audience waiting for a climax that never occurs. In typical Malick style, the film is held together by the loosest of structures, divided into chapters named after tarot cards which act as indicators to films overarching theme, which is… I’ll get back to you on that one.

There are some interesting visuals scattered throughout the film, namely the scenes contrasting the insanely extravagant lifestyles of the elite and the barren desert that surrounds them. From a technical standpoint, however, the film has little to offer. The handheld camera swings around with too much abandon, looking straight-up amateurish at certain points, and there are several scenes badly in need of some proper editing. For a director usually so focused on the visual, the film is a surprisingly monotonous experience. After watching waves break over the shore for the one hundredth time while Bale’s voice-over mumbles some abstract musing, it’s difficult to separate the film from an overlong perfume commercial. The performances turned in by the cast are, for the most part, uneven. Some actor’s struggles to remain afloat while others do their best with the lemons they were given, making like Beyoncé and creating lemonade.

Knight of Cups is a film that feels it has something important to say – much like a twenty-year-old college student who has tried weed for the first time – but in reality, just like said college student, it is speaking nothing but gibberish. Undoubtedly, this film will attract a certain ‘type’, someone who passed Philosophy 101 and will remain smug in the knowledge that they ‘got’ this film, but we’ll all no otherwise – there’s nothing to get.

Ellen Murray

118 minutes

Knight of Cups is released 6th may 2016

Knight of Cups – Official Website

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