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Knight of Cups is without a doubt a niche film. One which, at worse, will seem inane, directionless, and so weird you could only imagine what it must have been like being stuck as part of the production. Yet, at best, it may speak to a state your life might be in when everything seems too dull, no matter how stimulating the situation is, and it almost feels like you are drowning.
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
The sleeping prince, that is what Rick (Christian Bale) seems to be. He wanders about in a dream filled with naked young girls, and then he becomes half awake and actually engages with real women. Some of them like Della (Imogen Poots) or Karen (Teresa Palmer), young girls who are exciting, a bit weird, but perhaps bring Rick to days when commitment wasn’t as big of a need in his relationships as fun times were. Then there is Helen (Frieda Pinto), the one who trying to have is like a dance, making you think perhaps all he cares about is being seduced and played with, and this is the type of relationship he needs and wants. Then comes the two who demand serious commitment seekers in Nancy (Cate Blanchett) and Elizabeth (Natalie Portman). Between an ex-wife and someone he is having an affair with, there are feelings which are almost insatiable, yet both know nothing much will come out of trying to turn their flirting into a vow. Nancy got one and things didn’t last, and for the reason she thinks it didn’t, Elizabeth inadvertently tried that method and the result ended just the same.
All in all, it is hard to say which could make the sleeping prince conscious, active, and not drifting through life. Yet so many, the women mentioned, and some other who aren’t, present every type of stimulant imaginable, besides drugs, to wake him. Oh, little prince, whatever could wake you?
Let’s note off the bat that some sections, which are represented by the main, or major, arcana, are better than others. The Moon (Della), The Sun (Helen), Death (Elizabeth) and, to a certain point, The High Priestess (Karen) and Judgment (Nancy) are the best parts of the film. If only because they actually lead you to believe there is a tangible story here. One dealing with Rick probably not knowing what he wants in a relationship, besides the fact he doesn’t want the troubles which come with having a serious one. He wants things to be playful, chasing each other around the house, on the beach, and not serious about having to cater to someone’s mood and eccentricities. Such makes him shut down and takes away from the energy he feeds off of during the good times.
In a strange way, Rick can feel relatable. All these marvelous things are happening for him professionally, and even personally to a certain degree, yet he can’t maintain this feeling of happiness. Money, sex, and career success are all accomplishment within his hands, but as soon as the grasp is firm they seem to lose their luster and he needs something new to stimulate him. Thus making it seem he can never be eternally satisfied no matter what he makes of himself. A weird feeling to relate to, sure, but as you get older it sometimes feels like as you check off list of the goals you had since high school, you realize the chase was fun, but once things are yours the enjoyment slips for now instead of working to get something, you have to work to keep it. A task which, depending on the topic, is sometimes much harder.
Those dealing with the men in Rick’s life, like his father Joseph (Brian Dennehy), brother Barry (Wes Bentley), as well as associate Tonio (Antonio Banderas), were low points. During these segments, while you understood Barry and Joseph were still mourning, in their own way, about the third brother, and third son, between the overlapping voices, and the constantly moving camera, nothing really tangible comes out of these segments. Then, in term of Banderas’ part, I just couldn’t figure out the significance. Unless he was a representation of how Rick was when he wasn’t the sleeping prince but wide awake and a participant in life.
I really didn’t like how no one really had a conversation in the film. Most of it seemed like everyone was presenting some sort of poetic eulogy for Rick, and rarely did anyone really speak to him face to face. Hell, even when they did, more so they were talking at him than with him. Yes, pushing the idea that Rick is a quiet guy who somehow lucked into a grand life yet, at the same time, it left you wondering how did these women, and businessmen, find themselves so enamored by this guy?
On The Fence
Though the melancholy music certainly doesn’t help the feeling of sometimes wanting to go to sleep, I must admit the soundtrack, or score, for this was some of the most relaxing music I’ve heard from a movie in some time.
Final Thought(s): TV Viewing
The saving grace for this film is that it made me think. If only because I was trying so hard to figure out Rick’s character that either it clicked in my head what writer/ director Terrence Malick wanted me to think, or I came up with something compelling enough to see the movie through to the end. But, I won’t say that growing to appreciate Rick almost being a blank canvas didn’t come with some issues. For, as noted, while the women almost all painted him beautifully, the men didn’t do as vivid of a job. Pair that with random moments, like Rick getting robbed, which come out of nowhere and seem like an attempt to shake you out of a stupor, and hopefully, you can understand the TV Viewing label.