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I want you to hit me as hard as you can, son

PG-13

Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Tye Sheridan, Laramie Eppler

Young Jack:  Where were You?  You let a boy die.  You let anything happen.  Why should I be good…when You aren’t?

Grace…nature…love…hypocrisy…mothers…fathers…children…brothers…God…faith…doubt …beginnings…endings…birth…death…and dinosaurs.

You think I’m kidding about the dinosaurs, but just wait and see.

This is a tough one to tackle.  I saw it a couple days ago and am still processing it.  I know I enjoyed it, but I’m not really sure what to say about it.

This was definitely not your average trip to the movies.  There is no simple story running through the movie, there are no big dramatic twists, and there is no solid beginning or ending…unless you count the beginning of the universe.  We do get one long, very long, sequence depicting what seems to be the formation of galaxies, stars, and eventually the Earth.  It reminded me of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey as this somewhat random imagery was splashed across the screen set to opera music.  That maybe could have been trimmed a little…I felt like I had got the point after the first 10 minutes of it.

What story there is involves the O’Brien family in the 1950s (and a grown up member of the family, Sean Penn, in modern day).  Brad Pitt is the father, Jessica Chastain is the mother, and the three sons are well played by Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, and Tye Sheridan.  It’s a convincing family (and not just because young Laramie looks so much like a mini-Brad Pitt), which is unfortunate at times because it’s certainly not always a happy family.  The focus of the movie is on the eldest son, Jack, as he is torn between the lessons he learns from his two parents.

Will he choose to live a life of grace and love, as his mother does, or will he live a more angry, selfish life like his father, always fighting to achieve success any way he can?  The answer seems like it would be clear, but Jack’s father’s hypocrisy angers him, which results in Jack not wanting to do what’s right.

And herein lies the real center of the movie.

In another Brad Pitt movie, Fight Club, at one point his character says, “if our fathers were our models for God, what does that tell you about God?”  Well, this movie examines that even further.  Jack sees hypocrisy and meanness in his earthly father and hates him for it.  This then extends to his heavenly father and really causes him to question faith and to wonder why he should bother being good at all.

This whole movie felt like a Psalm visualized.  It’s a cry out in the dark…a plea.  It’s a movie that you just sit and experience, and maybe hear some of your own voice in.  It might be a little tedious at times, but if the subject matter sounds interesting, it’s probably worth a watch.

And did I mention there are dinosaurs?  Unconvincing dinosaurs, but dinosaurs nonetheless…

Do not trust your older brother when he tells you to put your finger over the end of a BB gun.

10 – 1 for a few tedious bits – .2 for some not so special effects – .4 because I thought one character changed a little too quickly and unbelievably – .4 because the early sections with Sean Penn were a little ambiguous and uncompelling = 8.0