Terrence Malick‘s Song to Song (Broad Green, 3.17) is more or less the same movie as To The Wonder and Knight of Cups — another meandering, whispering voice-over, passively erotic Emmanuel Lubezski tour de bullshit. All directors make the same movie over and over, of course, and this, ladies and germs, is another return to Malickland…what he does, what he can’t help recreating and re-exploring. I just sat there in my seat at Broad Green headquarters, slumped and going with it and silently muttering to myself, “Yuhp, same arty twaddle.”
The older Malick gets (he’s 73), the foxier and more barefoot and twirling the girls in his movies get, and this one, a kind of Austin music industry La Ronde, has a fair amount of fucking going on. And that’s fine with me. No “sex scenes”, per se, but a lot of navel-worshipping, I can tell you. Rooney Mara‘s, I mean.
At first Song to Song is about a romantic-erotic triangle between Faye (Mara), a guitarist and band member who doesn’t seem to care about music as much as whom she’s erotically entwined with at the moment, and two attractive music industry guys — Ryan Gosling‘s BV, a songwriter-performer, and Michael Fassbender‘s Cook, a rich music mogul. I can tell you Mara is definitely the focus of the high-hard-one action or, as Quentin Tarantino put it in Reservoir Dogs, “Dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick.”
Mara seems to start off with Cook and then move on to BV. Or was it Gosling first and then Fassbender and then a really hot French girl (Berenice Marlohe) and then back to Gosling at the very end with a Cook pit-stop or two? There’s never much sense of linear time progression in a Malick film so you never really know, but she definitely does them all.
There’s something vaguely L’Avventura-esque about Song to Song…pretty, wealthy people lost in impulsive erotica, embracing momentary pleasure, bopping from song to song, bod to bod, orgasm to orgasm, and all the while trying to make things happen within the Austin music scene. But falling away from the eternal. And in too many cold-vibe high-rises and high-end homes and not enough folksy abodes with yards and dogs and oak trees. But with lots of rivers to gaze at.
I’m simplify as best I can recall: (a) Mara definitely becomes intimate with Gosling, Fassbender and Marlohe; (b) Gosling has affairs with Mara, Lykke Li and Cate Blanchett‘s Amanda, and (c) Fassbender — the most louche and perverse of the three — has it off with Mara, Natalie Portman‘s Rhonda (a waitress whose mother is played by Holly Hunter) and two prostitutes (or a prostitute plus Portman) during a menage a trois scene.
I was kinda hoping Fassbender would hook up with Blanchett and Marlohe, but it never happened. I was actually imagining a menage a trois between Fassbender, Gosling and Mara — that would have been something — or a menage a quatre between these three and Blanchett, even. Or a menage a cinque between these four and Val Kilmer, who is seen performing in a couple of brief outdoor-concert scenes but never gets to fuck anyone.
I do know…er, believe that Mara and Gosling end up together at the very end of Song to Song, tired of all the endless-erotic-intrigue bullshit and both having decided to live a simpler life in some backwater setting. The funniest part of the finale (for me) is that Gosling has apparently abandoned the music industry to work as an oil-derrick roughneck…yup, the exact same job that Jack Nicholson‘s Bobby Dupea, who came from a snobbish musical family, had in the beginning of Five Easy Pieces. Dupea was running away from himself in that scenario, but Gosling is cleansing himself by returning to basics…go figure.
Song To Song felt to me like an erotic paean to Mara, or Mara as she was five years ago — not long after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and a year before Spike Jonze‘s Her, Steven Soderbergh‘s Side Effects and David Lowery‘s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, two or three years before Todd Haynes‘ Carol and definitely three years before her all-but-meaningless supporting role in Lion.
My favorite Song to Song performer was rock priestess and poet Patti Smith, who has maybe two scenees, one of which features an anecdotal improv about her own life (i.e., how she still wears her wedding ring despite her late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, having passed in ’94). I was more interested in and taken by Smith than anyone or anything else in this thing, including Mara’s navel.
From John DeFore’s Hollywood Reporter review: “Ersatz local color aside, suffice to say that Song to Song is not designed to win back onetime admirers who felt Malick’s To the Wonder and Knight of Cups drowned in their own navels.”