Monday, September 23, 2019

CRITICS CUT DOWN VAN SANT’S “THE SEA OF TREES”

May 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Add Matthew McConaughey to the list of actors who quickly appeared in a stinker following their Oscar victory. (To be sure, McConaughey did star in the blockbuster Interstellar after winning the Oscar for Dallas Buyers’ Club last year, but that film was virtually “in the can” by the time the awards were announced.) What persuaded him to sign on to Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees shortly after he was Oscar-nominated for Buyers’ Club, is anyone’s guess. Just as it is anyone’s guess as to why the Cannes Film Festival selected it as one of the handful of films (19) to vie for this year’s prestigious Palme d’Or award. But critics attending the festival generally agreed that both decisions were wrong-headed. The trade press saw little hope for it at the box office. Wrote Justin Chang in Variety: “How this dramatically stillborn, commercially unpromising Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions pickup managed to score a competition berth at Cannes (where it was greeted with a round of boos [at a press screening]) is a vastly more impenetrable mystery than the one laid out in [Christopher] Sparling’s screenplay.” The assessment of McConaughey’s performance was no less unsparing. The film, wrote Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter, “officially ends Matthew McConaughey’s exceptional recent run of top-notch performances and films.” Overseas critics were even more disparaging. Peter Bradshaw in Britain’s Guardian referred to it as “this fantastically annoying and dishonest tear-jerker.” And France’s Le Monde commented that Van Sant, who won the festival’s top award in 2003 for Elephant, appears to have lost his touch after two previous recent misfires, Restless and Promised Land. Trees, it concluded, amounts to a “minor work by a great name.”