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Even Sean Penn didn’t quite get “The Tree of Life”

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Don't feel too bad if you left Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and felt like you hadn't really "connected" or "understood anything," because it turns out that even Sean Penn — who had a relatively important role in the film, if you don't know — wasn't really sure about the finished product. Here's what Penn said about Malick's critically lauded film to French magazine Le Figaro (translation via The New Yorker):

I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.

Of course, that's not to say Penn doesn't recommend the film — as my crappy, Google-assisted translation indicates, though, he feels the audience will appreciate it "if only to go with an open mind" and that Malick is a great artist.

I can't speak to the film's quality; I can be a real philistine sometimes and I was just not in the mood these past few months to contemplate the existential mysteries of life for two hours. (I was tempted to check it out when I heard there were some dinosaurs, though, because I am a five-year old.) But in an age where it seems like actors will defend even the crappiest of films to the bitter end, it's a bit refreshing to hear someone break from the party line. For those of you who've seen the film, does Penn have a point? Or is he just being his usual tetchy self?