HKIFF Review: To the Wonder / À la Merveille 愛是神奇 (2012) – USA

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 25th March 2013

Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Amy Adams

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

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Ben Affleck can’t act in romantic dramas and “To the Wonder” all but confirmed this. Affleck showed zero presence as he mug his way through the film, showing none of the qualities that made his intense appearance in “Argo” so effective. Still, the fault cannot be all blamed on Affleck shoulders as director Terrence Malick is clearly inept, as the film suffers from poor pacing, cheesy dialogue and piss poor lighting and cinematography. It is okay to be pretentious, if you connect with the audience and when the director in one crucial scene unashamedly attempts to clone Wong Kar Wai’s technique and soundtrack, it is not exactly inspiring. This is a terrible mess of a film that the audience can’t wait for the credit to roll and it makes me wonder why any of the actors even came on board to this humiliation of a film.

The core of the problem lies with Ben Affleck as he lacks any chemistry with any of his co-stars, not to mention, so little is known about him, I felt as though he will murder someone at any instance. Luckily, no bloodthirsty moments occurred. Olga Kurylenko shines in the leading role as the French single mother looking for love and finding love. Kurylenko is able to show the difficulty of adjusting to a new culture, environment and the act of giving up everything for the name of love. Kurylenko is probably as human as the film intends to be and there are times, when her frustrations clearly connects with the audience. There are moments when she stare into space that almost convinces the audience her own shortcomings and lack of life goals. Amy Adams is beautiful in a short cameo, but overacts in most of her interactions with Affleck. Javier Bardem flairs well as priest, but details into his underlying passion is never explored. It is a shame as the film might have worked if Javier Bardem took on the leading role instead.

All in all, “To the Wonder” tries hard to look good and all “laffy fluffy”, but ultimately suffers from a poor script, over pretentious execution, bad lighting and some questionable performances. What set Wong Kar Wai films apart is its unique ability to connect to the utmost inner souls and gel those experiences and memories together. “To the Wonder” tries and fail miserably in the process. (Neo 2013, Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013)

I rated it 4/10

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