The McConnaissance has been marred!
Matthew McConaughey’s new drama, The Sea of Trees, was screened to a chorus of boos during two press showings May 15 at the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival in France.
There was also a smattering of laughter at the latter screening. And let’s just say, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Part Deux, this isn’t.
The actor, no surprise, is taking the reaction in stride. “I liked the experience of making it and I’m glad we got the opportunity to introduce it to the world,” a relaxed McConaughey said during the official press conference May 16. “Anyone has any right to either boo or ovate.”
So how bad is it?
Bad. But it’s not a total debacle.
The Oscar winner — and just to confirm, the Academy can never take that trophy away from him — is a scientist grieving his dead wife, played by Naomi Watts. In deep emotional pain, he travels to a beautiful and remote “suicide forest” in Tokyo where he plans on killing himself. But in the middle of the act, he spots an injured local (Ken Watanabe) staggering through the terrain, searching for a way out. He instinctively decides to help this stranger and, along the journey, discovers a new will to live.
On that premise alone, the project is worthy. Especially if you have a weakness for redemption stories and lush greenery.
The film, directed by Gus Van Sant, starts to go horribly askew in flashback sequences to McConaughey and Watts’ marriage. These aren’t portraits of an endearingly loving couple that shares any sort of physical or emotional intimacy. Or even a laugh together, for that matter. They bicker over whether he can find her lipstick in the glove compartment of the car en route to a dinner. She’s an alcoholic. He cheated on her. She’s unsupportive of his career. He’s smart because he wears glasses and a trench coat. They yell at each other with dialogue that’s overwrought as much as it is cruel.
Somebody kill them both, please. Now.
(Watts does indeed bite it. But in an inconceivably ludicrous manner. The absurdity continues at the funeral, where McConaughey solemnly declares, “I didn’t even know her favorite color.” Um, because that’s the mark of a solid marriage?)
McConaughey’s travails in the forest are a bit more tolerable, if only by default. As the two partners wander around, they bare their souls. Maybe Van Sant intended for these confessions to be tear-jerking and profound, but they come off as contrived sentiments. There might as well be a flashing sign on the screen that reads “There are no easy exits in the winding trail of life!”
Oh well. The actor will recover this meditative misfire. So will the erudite moviegoers at Cannes. Last I checked, the sun is still shining over the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France.
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