Here is what my local theater said about this Terrence Malick movie:
In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples – struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares (Natalie Portman) – chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.
I guess that is accurate, as far as it goes. It doesn’t mention that there is little to no actual plot,* and that none of the characters has a name. There’s an evil music business tycoon who steals Gosling’s copyrights. Gosling and Mara have disfunctional families. There are a lot of shots of stages and backstages, but the supposed musicians Mara and Gosling never perform publicly (he does some noodling on pianos for her, and she holds a guitar once or twice). I don’t think Gosling’s expression ever changes. Come to think of it, I don’t think it changed much in “La La Land,” either.
I found it pretty annoying to try to follow, at least for about the first half (it’s long, too — almost 2-1/2 hours) and then I gave up and just went with the flow. Malick found some gorgeous nature scenes to include, and some amazing houses/apartments, and I liked the bit part Patti Smith had.
I far prefer his earlier film “Tree of Life.” Apparently audiences agree — though my local theater made a big deal about its opening, it quickly moved into the second smallest room, which holds 40-50 people. At the prime-time showing I went to, there were only five or six people.
I have to give him one thing: though I don’t think his latest film is successful, it was compelling to watch. I never looked at my watch and hoped it would be ending soon.
*The lack of plot is probably tied to the fact that no one ever does anything, other than roll around with someone else (not sex, though) or stand for long periods looking away. A few people stand on stages, but only Patti Smith really does anything on one. Hard to have a plot when nothing happens. It’s the barest exposition ever of “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” or “girl meets boy,” etc. if you prefer.