Farrel was a lead weight in The New World, which suffered generally from leaden performances by movie stars.
I don't think any of the performances in The New World
are particularly great but there's certainly nothing wrong with them. It's not like Malick's films are ever actor-driven anyway. If anything, it's probably good that he doesn't use talented actors since that might distract from the visuals, which are no doubt his strength.
I am still very
skeptical of this film, though. It seems like it'll either be a disaster or the greatest film of all time.
Even if Tree of Life
is Malick's worst film, it will still be one of the five greatest films ever made. Guess which are the other four?
Also, in regards to acting, I think Malick's strength there is his casting
. While I think the acting is fine in all of his films, it's how the actors look, and their "presence" that matters. Gere is wonderful in Days of Heaven
because his face just exudes a sort of petulant, unearned smugness... but because of his unbelievable, delicate features, there's also something almost poetically saintly about him. Hearing that Malick wanted Travolta, with his enormous jaw and chin and nose, for the role, flabbergasted me. He's a great actor, but he wouldn't have looked right at all.
And Malick is one of the few - if not the only - American director willing to cast extremely unattractive or unusual looking faces in a non-condescending way. He might only do this in minor roles, admittedly, but it's still a nice touch.