Even at his most esoteric and adrift, it is impossible to entirely write off any new cinematic work from filmmaker Terrence Malick. The greatness of 1978's "Days of Heaven," 1998's "The Thin Red Line," and 2005's "The New World" is reason enough to demand cinephiles pay attention to what he has to say, his ruminations on the beauty and ennui of life and death ricocheting off each picture-perfect image and philosophizing voiceover. Beginning with 2011's enormously ambitious, achingly uneven "The Tree of Life" but more prominently manifesting itself in 2013's oftentimes laughably flowery "To the Wonder," the 72-year-old Malick has seemingly lost his mojo—or, perhaps he has simply squandered it as he has expedited his output, rushing a procession of projects into production without allowing for time to fully develop or think them through. Edging too closely and too often toward self-parody, "Knight of Cups" continues his recent preoccupation with emotionally stunted men who mope around while willowy female figures twirl and prance through his life. It's time for Malick to find a different angle.
For someone whose abilities to talk and emote are severely lacking, Rick (Christian Bale) sure does attract a lot of attractive young women. A Hollywood screenwriter never seen at a computer, he moves from one lover to the next while spending each day acting as mostly silent spectator to the city he calls home. There's Della (Imogen Poots), who likes to walk on her heels and ultimately tells Rick, "You don't want love, you want a love experience." There's Helen (Freida Pinto), a model who no longer wishes to wreak havoc in men's lives. Karen (Teresa Palmer) is a stripper who accompanies him to Las Vegas and delights in being pushed in a shopping cart down the street, as all grown adults are apt to enjoy. Ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett), a doctor, agrees to see him, but the love they once shared can never be recaptured. Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) is married to another but falls for him anyway; she is sure he is her soulmate until an unforeseen event puts a snarl in their plans. And then there's Isabel (Isabel Lucas), so ill-used it's not exactly clear who she is. Meanwhile, Rick fails to connect with troubled ne'er-do-well brother Barry (Wes Bentley) and wrestles over his relationship with a grieving father, Joseph (Brian Dennehy), who worries the light has gone out in his son's eyes. Based on the evidence within, did he ever have a light to begin with?
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review