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Arts & Entertainment
Variety: 'New World' promising but story falls short

Ed. Note: The New World opens December 25 in Los Angeles and New York and nationwide on January 13, 2006.

"The skies surrounding Jamestown in "The New World" are almost invariably flat and colorless, a condition that unfortunately also describes the storytelling and dramatis personae in Terrence MalickTerrence Malick's new picture. While the tale of first contact between Englishmen and the "naturals," as the Brits felicitously refer to the Native Americans, might seem to play to the strengths of the meticulous and unhurried director, Malick's exalted visuals and isolated metaphysical epiphanies are ill-supported by a muddled, lurching narrative, resulting in a sprawling, unfocused account of an epochal historical moment. The support of Malick loyalists notwithstanding, New Line will have trouble generating more than a modest commercial response.

While Kilcher's girl/woman charm, poised naivete and intriguing unfamiliarity lend Pocahontas a considerable fascination, Smith remains grievously underwritten for a leading role. One hasn't a clue what drives him, what he might have left behind in England, whether or not he's a trustworthy character (or narrator) with a good heart. Under the circumstances, Farrell can't do much more than interact in an agreeably spontaneous way with his leading lady. Thesps in lesser roles register hardly at all.

Pocahontas is said to have been one of many children of the king, but there is no attempt to delineate the native group's family or power structure, or this tribe's relationship with its neighbors. Explicit exposition may not be Malick's thing, but the lack of moorings has the predictable effect of leaving the viewer adrift in what shapes up as the director's most literal, albeit not overly didactic, depiction of the despoiling of Eden."

Get the Story:
The New World (Variety 12/12)

Relevant Links:
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Related Stories:
Native actress finds second family on Navajo Nation (09/13)
Lakota teen hopes to portray Pocahontas in new film (06/18)
Native actors joining cast of Pocahontas romance (05/20)