May 24, 2011
Cannes 2011: Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain wonder if hype, squareness are behind ‘Tree of Life’ divisions
In Tree of Life

Brad Pitt was sitting in a suite high above the Croisette earlier this week, pondering the divisive reaction to “The Tree of Life,” the long-awaited Terrence Malick movie about life, death, religion and nature, among other things.

“That doesn’t bother me,” he told 24 Frames. “Really. I much prefer that some people love and others don’t get it, as long as it starts a discussion. That’s a bigger win.”

At screenings earlier in the week, some Cannes-goers had embraced Malick’s boldness, while others resisted it, as boos and applause would often mix together. But Pitt was keeping a sunny attitude. “Certainly it’s engaged people in conversation. To me that’s a huge success.”

He said he did realize how buzz could work against a film, especially in the hothouse environment of a festival.  “Terry being Terry, there’s a weight it carries,” the actor said. “And this thing has been in incubation for so long. Hype is always dangerous because you could never answer all the expectations.”

Just down the hall, co-star Jessica Chastain was offering her own explanation for why some had bristled.

“The qualities that some people will find it difficult is why I think it’s brilliant, and that is that there’s nothing cynical about it,” she said. “It’s not cool. I’m a great fan of Michael Haneke, but his movies are really edgy and dark. There’s something about them that’s really cool. And this is a film that says we’re essentially good. And maybe the public has a harder time thinking that.”

Chastain did say that she thought a longer view was necessary in evaluating “Tree’s” power. “Even if the film isn’t a great success, I know it’s something people will be coming up to me in 30 years and saying, ‘You were in that film.’”

She may not need to wait decades, though: As of Thursday evening, the film had scored a perfect 100% rating among top critics on Rotten Tomatoes.