Ryan Reynolds and Willem Dafoe Do Tree of Life-Lite in Delayed Fireflies in the Garden
If Sean Penn didn't love the abstract narrative Terrence Malick employed in Tree of Life, maybe he'll dig the pretty-similar, much more conventional stuff in the long-delayed Fireflies in the Garden -- a Tree of Life Lite starring Ryan Reynolds as a middle-aged man who returns to his Texas childhood home to deal with his strained relationship with his stern father (Willem Dafoe). Period flashbacks, memories of an angelic mother (Julia Roberts), and a pivotal death that inspires exploration into deep emotional scars? The only things missing are the cosmic clouds of particles laden with meaning. Would Penn approve?
OK, fine. There are more differences between Fireflies in the Garden and Tree of Life than just the half hour of mesmerizingly pretentious art-swirls that turned all but the most dedicated art snobs off of Malick's film. Like surly Ryan Reynolds, who's still contractually obligated to crack jokes in this movie; at least they're of the douchey-sarcastic type. And Julia Roberts in old lady makeup! Yeah... I'll take Jessica Chastain as my small-town Texas mother-angel instead.
VERDICT: See it if you didn't get Tree of Life.