Review: 'Song to Song' is more B-side than hit single

Posted Tuesday, July 4, 2017 at 5:32 PM Central
Last updated Friday, July 21, 2017 at 11:17 AM Central

by John Couture

If there's one thing about a Terrence Malick film, you are destined to either love it or hate it. There really isn't much of a middle ground. Song to Song is the first of his films that might see people from both sides meet in the middle.

I'm normally a big Malick fan, but I was left with a rather meh feeling after watching Song to Song. There's really nothing wrong with it per se, and the cast features the likes of Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender, so there's plenty to enjoy in the film.

The main problem, I think, is that the film is almost too experimental, which is saying a lot for a Terrence Malick film. The difference between Song to Song and Malick's other films, say last year's Knight of Cups which I really loved, is that most of his films have a clear destination in mind (whether they get there or not is another story), but I never felt as though Malick had a plan with Song to Song.

While having a destination is not a necessity for an interesting movie, it does help to pull in the audience. Here, the audience serves as a voyeur on young love and the music scene in Austin, Texas. As someone who recently got into the local music scene here in Nashville, I can relate to this voyeuristic feeling as social media and the close-knit relationship between musicians and fans are often blurred.

To that end, I do think that Malick does an admirable job capturing the spirit of today's rock scene and the uncertainty that today's climate places on bands looking to make it big or simply to rock out night after night without having to worry where the next meal is going to come from.

After watching last year's La La Land, I came to the conclusion that I am most definitely a Ryan Gosling fan. Trust me, it was touch and go there for a little while. With Malick's improvised style, Gosling is able to showcase his range in an environment that isn't all that different from the terrain of La La Land.

Obviously, I'm a huge fan of Natalie Portman and nothing she does here changes my mind on that fact, but the real impressive turn is given by Rooney Mara. She has quietly built up a strong resumé by turning in so many eclectic performances, but this one is perhaps her best.

Ultimately, the film was enjoyable, but not one that I will probably ever re-watch. It was reported that the first cut was over eight hours long and notable actors such as Christian Bale and Haley Bennett found themselves on the cutting room floor. Perhaps someday, we will get a longer cut and Malick's vision will be restored. Until then, the film is just a bit of a mess, but better than most films of this ilk.

Song to Song is now available on UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.