Perhaps the most benign thing that can be said about Innocence of Muslims, that notorious 14-minute movie trailer sparking violent protests throughout the Middle East, is this: It has kept To the Wonder, a film largely shot in Oklahoma, from being the world’s most widely condemned flick.
Expectations were high in 2010 when legendary filmmaker Terrence Malick came to shoot a movie in Bartlesville, where the director of Badlands and Days of Heaven grew up and where his parents still reside.
But judging by its reception at festivals in Venice and Toronto, Malick’s To the Wonder might not be coming to a theater near you anytime soon. Like The Tree of Life, the what-the-hell-did-I-justsee arthouse film he released last year, To the Wonder sounds like it might have been written by a bong.
It is said to bear the indelible stamp of the famously mysterious Malick. Star Ben Affleck appears to have only a handful of lines, while Jessica Chastain and Rachel Weisz didn’t even make the movie’s final cut.
“To the Wonder makes The Tree of Life look like a Noel Coward play,” wrote Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman.
From the Toronto film fest, The Hollywood Reporter noted, “Even fans of ... The Tree of Life ... were unforgiving in dismissing ... [To the Wonder]. As one observer cracked, ‘You either hate it, or you hate it.’” Then there was Jeffrey Wells of popular film site hollywoodelsewhere.com. Proclaiming it an “almost comical current of fuck-you nothingness,” he said the movie made him determined to “never, ever, visit Bartlesvillle, Oklahoma.” So determined that he put that sentence in bold.