Arguably no film has suffered a steeper fall on the autumn festival circuit than Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." The usually slow-working director's unexpectedly prompt follow-up to last year's Palme d'Or winner "The Tree of Life" entered the Venice Film Festival, together with Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," as its prime attraction. By the time it moved on to Toronto, however, many critics seemed to be wishing he'd taken a little more time.
The Venice premiere was by no means disastrous. Inevitably, as with "The Tree of Life" at Cannes, some boos greeted the closing credits at its morning press screening, and were swiftly, even gleefully blown out of proportion by the media, but it had its fair share of admirers, too -- of which I was one. (Indeed, I'm one of the very few who thinks the film a step up from "Tree.") The Toronto reception, however, was rockier: with expectations already dampened by the mixed advance word from Europe, a lot of critics positively seemed to revel in sticking the boot in, while claims to the effect of "Malick's worst film" rapidly became consensus.