Melissa Anderson on Terrence Malick’s Song to Song

Each new film that Terrence Malick, the once notoriously unhurried director, has made in the rash of projects since The Tree of Life (2011) evinces a further regression, an increasingly witless sacralizing of male-female coupledom. The title of Malick’s latest, Song to Song, set in Austin against the backdrop of that city’s South by Southwest music festival, is just a preposition and an s removed from Song of Songs, the Old Testament celebration of sexual love (which, unlike this movie, is genuinely lusty); the biblical evocation signals the vaporous quasi-spirituality to follow from the feeble philosopher of man-woman relations. The auteurist affectations and tics that have come to define the various labile dyads—always rupturing and reconciling beneath crepuscular skies—in Song to Song and its immediate predecessors, To the Wonder (2012) and Knight of Cups (2015), have produced in this viewer a condition that I can only diagnose as heterophobia.

As with most Malick movies released during this century, there is only the barest frame of plot in Song to Song, the particulars of which are often incoherent or vague; even character names seem to be superfluous, prosaic details that can only interfere with the director’s lofty vision. The one protagonist’s name I did catch (the others I learned from scanning the press materials afterward) is Faye, played by Rooney Mara. She is an endeavoring musician (evidenced by the electric guitar she half-heartedly strums once or twice) in a relationship, achronologically charted, with Ryan Gosling’s BV, a songwriter and associate of Cook (Michael Fassbender), an Armani-clad rock ‘n’ roll executive and debauchee who once employed Faye. The boss and former underling betray BV, the ramifications of which are haphazardly parceled out; in the aftermath of this tryst, Cook will seem to be on a more righteous path when he marries Rhonda (Natalie Portman), a bottle blonde whose choice of profession—she’s a kindergarten teacher supplementing her income with hash-slinging—telegraphs an innate goodness soon to be ludicrously corrupted.

To read the rest of Melissa Anderson’s Village Voice review, click here.