It is an art film and it is grand!If you say so.
You know, watching this film, at times, is like you walk through a museum with great symphonies playing in the background, while you savour paintings of life-past: how exquisite and happy these people look. That is why I don’t really know what to look at or for whenever I go to a museum, except trying to be an intellectual so I ought to be able to enjoy it: no, I don’t, most of the time.
Here I say it, I don’t know what this film is all about and I don’t like it a bit. Sure, some of the cinematography were majestic, but so can watching the Big Bang special on Discovery channel with volume turned down, and have Górecki’s Symphony No.3 played loud during the colourful displays of nebula.
Nonetheless, I must try to understand, and I think I got some parts of it: creation was majestic and symphonic, human life evolved from it can be graceless or graceful depends on which way you choose. Hence, at the beginning of the film, it says live life by nature or live life with grace! In other words, the macro stuff was great, the micro stuff can be nasty!
Mr. O’Brien(Brad Pitt) tries all his life to achieve greatness by improving machinery, but he never succeeds. He teaches his son never to give up, and continue to improve until they make lots of money like others do. He gave up his musical dream to pursuit money making instead (The American Dream). He has a beautiful wife that is graceful, three perfect blond hair sons, a big house,(God’s gifts) and a failing job(Man’s failure)… Young Jack (Hunter McCracken) is ambivalent about his angry strait-laced father with little empathy that provides empty hugs and kisses. Adult Jack(Sean Penn) is a successful architect. Did his success come from his dad strict discipline and motivation talks, or it came from the loving care of his mom?
If you were to pay attention, at the beginning the dead brother voices through a flame silhouette only addresses his brother and mom, but not his father — he hated him I think. BTW, Jessica Chastain is the mother, Mrs. O’Brien.