To The Wonder (Available on Amazon, Bright House VOD) It’s usually unfair to hold directors up to their past work, especially when that work is particularly great or terrible. Terrence Malick has almost always lived up to that kind of scrutiny, and when he hasn’t, he hasn’t missed by much. But with To the Wonder, Malick has delivered the first film that you might call routine.
The signature floating visual poem is here once again, and it guides us through the coming together and falling apart of Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko), an American-French couple who leave the daydream beauty of Paris to settle in rural Oklahoma for his oil-field job. To the Wonder lacks the grand central ideas that have marked Malick’s films in the past – there is no war, no murder, no running from the law, no creation of life; it’s simply a love story with overtones of loneliness, alienation and emptiness. It works on that level, but with less natural efficiency than we’re used to. It’s a beautiful film, of course it is, but there is some assembly required to get to its aloof center.
Gimme the Loot (Available on Bright House VOD) Bomb the apple. A phrase like that sounds so sinister now, but 20 years ago, it’s all any tagger in New York wanted to do. They hoped to catch fame by getting their name on the Mets’ home-run apple. It’s been impossible ever since the idea was posed, but it seems like cake for Malcolm and Sophia (Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington), two kids from the Bronx who want to be the biggest writers in the city but can’t get past a couple of white kids from Queens who keep wrecking their pieces. Twenty years of failure isn’t going to stop them, but the $500 they need to bribe a guard to get in might.
The apple exists as both a legend and a joke in New York, encapsulating the Mets’ position as lovable losers, and that team reputation runs as a direct parallel to that of Malcolm and Sophia, lovable losers who seem like they’ll never make it when their schemes to get the money turn toward ripping off Ginnie (Zoë Lescaze), a rich white girl Malcolm has a crush on. The charm of Hickson and Washington makes the film a success, though. There is an amiable Charlie Brown-and-Peppermint Patty quality to them as they run around the city fighting and bickering. They’re so close that the worst insults they hurl at one another roll off their backs, and their likability keeps you squarely on their side throughout the film.