Reel Shorts | Song to Song

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Set in the music scene of Austin, Texas, Song to Song is the latest cinematic experience from the oft-maligned and rarely appreciated filmmaker Terrence Malick. The film is the story of a music mogul, Cook (Michael Fassbender), his protege, BV(Ryan Gosling) and an up and coming singer, Faye (Rooney Mara).

As the movie begins, the obsessed mogul Cook lures BV into his company through the wiles of his lover, Faye. Despite a warning sign, BV joins Cook in his music business venture. Unbeknownst to Cook, Faye actually falls for BV and leaves Cook for BV. However, when the truth comes out, BV, Faye and even Cook all spin out of control.

Terrence Malick has developed a reputation of creating works that have been considered masterpieces by some. By others, his films are regarded as nothing more than pretentious and incomprehensible.

Working with multiple Oscar winner Emanuel Luzbeki’s gorgeous cinematography, Malick’s direction works well to capture the beautiful decadence of the Texas music scene. Multiple cameos by stars from Iggy Pop to the Red Hot Chili Peppers give the film grounding and reality. Malick’s directorial style keeps the audience off-center through the feature to help convey the uneasy tone of the film.

Unfortunately, the cinematography and directing tricks do nothing to solve the main problem of the film. Song to Song lacks emotion. The dialogue is misleading, incoherent and at times just plain absent. Voice-overs are the pre-eminent form of communication throughout the film which attempts to give the audience some glimpse into the motives and mindset of the characters but more often devolves into incomprehensible prattle that bores instead and gives us no real reason to care about anybody or anything in the movie at all.

This movie is definitely not a masterpiece and is actually closer to the pretentious. At two hours and nine minutes, Song to Song comes across as nothing more than a disturbing, tortuously long Calvin Klein cologne commercial in a movie.

Grade: F-