Eight years ago, long before his dazzling and surely Oscar-winning turn this summer in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Brad Pitt gave a magnificent performance in The Tree of Life as a loving martinet father in 1950s Texas with Sean Penn as his pensive son, ruminating in endless voice-overs about his pains and sorrows and the origins of the universe. This weekend, you can see Pitt in a virtual remake of The Tree of Life, in which he plays the son, not the father. It’s called Ad Astra, and like The Tree of Life, it’s both good and awful.
“Our fathers leave such an indelible mark on us and that relationship is so, so vital,” Pitt says. “My dad had always said he wanted to give us a better life than he had coming from great poverty, and he did that. That in turn makes me think the same way: What do I have to offer that’s better than what I had for my kids?”
The Tree of Life (2011)
For its vast ambition and meditative grace. It somehow manages to be both an intimate memory film while taking on the notion of all of existence. And I love the way it confounds and challenges perception itself.
In March 2019, my wife, daughters, and I set out from Wisconsin to visit Texas for one week. It was a memorable trip that I am grateful for. Since first watching The Tree of Life, visiting Texas to experience where the film took place became a goal.
Among the highlights for me was visiting many of the filming locations of The Tree of Life. While much of the filming took place in Smithville, TX, scenes were also shot in Houston, La Grange, and Austin in addition to several out of state and international shots.
We spent time in Houston visiting my wife’s cousin on Saturday evening, Sunday, and Monday morning. We checked out the Space Center Houston, toured downtown Galveston, and the Houston Zoo.
Although I knew the scenes with Sean Penn included the Houston cityscape, I did not visit the exact locations. On the way out of Houston…
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Mr. O’Brien: Your mother’s naive.
Father playing “Red Hands or The Hand Slap Game” (Whoa!)
It takes fierce will to get ahead in this world.
If you’re good, people take advantage of you.
Every one of these top executives — you know how they got where they are?
Floated right down the middle of the river.
Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything you can’t do.
Don’t do like I did. Promise me that.
I dreamed of being a great musician.
I let myself get sidetracked. If you’re lookin’ for somethin’ to happen, that was it.
That was life. You lived it.