Knight of Cups (2016)

For those who are familiar with and love Terrence Malick’s work, I am sorry.

I really couldn’t stand Knight of Cups and all of its “experimental” splendor. To me, it made a concerted effort to be deep and profound, but these profundities were either force fed to us or floated past audiences under the pretenses of art. And I think that was what was frustrating to me, was how Emperor’s New Clothes this movie felt to me. If I didn’t get it, then it was because I’m too crass and unrefined to understand this high art.

At the end of the day, you know what I love in movies. I love stories that show rich character relationships. This movie told no real story. We see a series of relationships but I cared little for almost all of them. The characters themselves lacked any definition. They would wax prose but I mean, you are supposed to show not tell these kinds of themes in a movie. It’s a visual medium.

What was most frustrating to me was that it felt like such a waste of the stellar acting talent in this movie. Christian Bale? Cate Blanchett? Natalie Portman? I mean, you know these are great actors because I am able to still feel something, to still get something out of their characters who do little more than stare off into the distance and back into the camera.

I get it. This movie is not for me. In fact, I read a review that hailed this film as a cinematic masterpiece that 90% of its audience would find intolerable. And that’s fair. Because even the cinematography didn’t do it for me, no. It felt like a film student trying to demonstrate a good understanding of the rule of thirds and other things s/he learned in class, to me. It wasn’t polished, and maybe that was the point, but I mean, if you’re going to throw a stream of consciousness at me, please wrap it in a bow. Sigh, I don’t know, you can argue that this was the point but there were some aspects of the direction and the cinematography that felt intentional and some that felt sloppy. It’s hard to describe because this entire movie was just… difficult to describe in general?

You know what, I still respect the film. I respect an unconventional process (no matter how painful it was for me) that challenges the cast as actors (you know I love actors pushing themselves), that challenges the director and the crew.

But. I simply couldn’t stand this movie, I really couldn’t. I felt no sympathy for Christian Bale wandering through his haze of Hollywood excess, which was poorly shown, and traipsing through various relationships with women in his life who served no purpose than to push him in one direction or another in his life. As a feminist, you know that is infuriating to see.


Not my cup of tea, Malick films. I literally fell asleep watching it, and I honestly can count on one hand the number of times a movie has put me to sleep in the theater. But I walked out having all my expectations met about this movie, including exactly why I wouldn’t like it. However, if you like his past works, then there’s a good chance you’ll like this one, especially if you are craving Malick’s take on Hollywood excess and want to see these amazing actors work with very limited direction.

Honestly, this still sums up most of the entire movie…

Knight of Cups is on limited release in the US.

Do you like Terrence Malick films?
What’s the key to enjoying one of his films, if you do?
Will you see Knight of Cups?

2 thoughts on “Knight of Cups (2016)

  1. I like Malick. In this movie,even more than usual for Malik, he does not give the viewer the meaning on a silver platter. Malik wants his audience to have the attention span and intelligence to listen. Listen closely to the deep and often beautiful narrative dialogue and you will get your story that so many reviewers claim is not there. It’s there. Go in and get it. As always with Malik- beautifully filmed. You cannot be distracted while watching Malik because you do have to pay close attention. I stopped the movie myself the first time because I was too tired to concentrate as I should. The following day I watched it with no interruptions and was entranced . You must listen and watch closely. Malik is abstract. If you don’t get it then it’s your loss. Give it more than one go. I plan to watch it several times. And Mallk is not for everyone. No instant gratification in this film. “Knight of Cups” is fabulous. As Portman says, “Love so rare, that when you find it, you can’t doubt it.” Great cast. Great movie.


    • I understand! Terrence Malick is just not really my cup of tea, as the things I look for in films are not really present in his work. However, I do think Knight of Cups is great for Malick fans, because it seems to deliver the MOST of what he is best known for. (So as someone who isn’t a fan of his style, it was a little bit painful haha)

      Thanks for your insights though, maybe I’ll give it another shot!


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