Review: Knight of Cups
Knight of Cups is likely to be the film I like least this year. The promise of gaudy visuals and a solid cast was enough to make me feel like there might be something here, but alas, there was not. Points for ambition; points for beauty, but if you are making a film for an audience, this fails.
The film is presented in episodic chapters that loosely create something akin to an arc for Rick (played by Christian Bale), our screenwriter protagonist on the search for love. This search is chronicled through glimpses into his relationships with various women, each allegedly offering another window into Rick's soul. The problem is that this character doesn't actually seem to have said soul. Due in large part to the disastrous screenplay, Rick is given no depth. And with no depth, there is no compelling reason to watch this person interact with characters we also don't care about. Malick is attempting to hang family portraits in an open field.
With few events of note, and even fewer that were effective, I can't imagine feeling less for a film than I did watching this. Perhaps that is the point here. "I gotta feel something" is almost a mantra in one particular scene. If this numbness was meant to extend to the audience, that it did. I felt nothing watching underwater shots serve as metaphors for chasing happiness via the excesses of Hollywood. I felt nothing as each slow, breathy narrator became the next. I felt nothing throughout this tiresome exercise.
The grandiose cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki is the brightest of spots in this film, but I have taken the liberty of showing you the best examples of it here. Sumptuous images of beach and sky just made me wish I was watching any number of movies he has photographed in the past. His talents were wasted framing these awful characters and creating beautiful images that were used to tell no story.
It felt almost like an experiment in how much you could get away with neglecting. Gone are crucial elements like character development and any meaningful story arc. And in this effort to create a dreamlike world, they aren't replaced with anything. There is no effort to make the audience feel or think anything that might create an experience. There are just visuals and words doled out in undisciplined fashion.
I have no power over what Malick makes. If I did, he would be limited to directing the words written by others. His obvious talents as a filmmaker are more than negated by this woefully inadequate screenplay. If I have even a modicum of credibility with you, you should let this one get by you, forever. There is no need to ever experience this. Devoid of anything resembling humanity or artistic virtue (beyond the cinematography), see this at your own expense.
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