Something weird happened when I saw Badlands. I really, really, really liked it. I guess it shouldn’t have been that weird, since it’s not supposed to be a bad movie or anything. But it has some things going against it for me: it’s directed by Terrence Malick, who also directed one of the worst movies I have ever seen (Tree of Life), the main characters aren’t exactly likeable, and there are extreme, somewhat random acts of violence. I should probably hate this movie. But, alas, Badlands is just too good for it to succumb to any of those biases.
Part of what it has going for it is its beauty. But, then again, Tree of Life is also beautiful. But Badlands is beautiful in a different way. Its beauty is more real, more relatable, but still surreal at the same time. The settings are beautiful, whether it’s Kit (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek)’s forest fortress, or the houses (both mansions or shacks), or the badlands . . . it’s all just sort of breathtakingly beautiful. Then there’s Kit and Holly themselves. Martin Sheen, who was 33 here but could’ve passed for 21, is so beautiful, he’s almost weird looking. He’s boyish but intense. And Sissy Spacek really plays into her weird-but-gorgeous thing to where it’s hard to stop looking at her. As a couple, they’re perfect in this movie for their parts; they’re beautiful but also a little strange looking – perfect but with something off about them.
Badlands is scary, because practically everyone who gets into Holly and Kit’s way, whether they mean them harm or not, gets murdered by Kit. But Kit reminds me of Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood – he’s so charming and good looking that you don’t really notice how evil he is until he’s really evil. He tricks us just like he tricks Holly and everyone else. Not being an actor, I really have no idea how anyone accomplishes that, but Martin Sheen really nails it.
I’m also really into the whole sequence that takes place in the forest, when Kit and Holly are first running from police. They build a pretty impressive living space for themselves, a place that looks like every kid’s dream. And while they’re there, my favorite scene of the whole movie takes place . . . such a short scene that it’s barely there. It’s just Kit and Holly dancing (Kit in cowboy boots, Holly barefoot) to Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love is Strange.” That seems like an overly obvious song for them to be dancing to, but the song is so good, and Kit and Holly silently dancing to it (not even really dancing together) is just so great I can’t even explain it.
If you haven’t seen this, don’t make my mistake and shy away from it just because you saw Tree of Life or don’t like seeing people get murdered. It’s just too good.
I believe that this was the third time I watched this movie. Whenever I think of this film I think of my friends who I have heard say they hate this film. I think they thought that this was pretentious and whatnot. But as an adult I just feel that if you don’t like this movie you’re going out of your way to hate it.
I think what it comes down to, for me, it how well shot it is. At one point they go to a house that is in the middle of nowhere South Dakota…..and it it so beautiful! Since watching this I have said multiple times that that would be my dream house. In the middle of nowhere with all the sky and American land that you can take in. In my mind that is the American dream. Live your life, enjoy great people, and when you get older go off and enjoy a little solitude.
This movie also triggered my new goal, one that Elizabeth is not on board to do yet, but to find a “nowhere” Texas. I want to find a place in Texas where I feel truly in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure this is not that difficult to find and I think Elizabeth isn’t down mainly due to it maybe being a little scary, but in my mind it would be so peaceful. And so far when I have told people this they say, “And then what would you do.” But truthfully all I would want to do is nothing. Just sit and enjoy. Probably bring some beer and food too.
If I ever do achieve this goal, I will post the pictures here.