Knight of Cups is the latest film by Terrence Malick. That should be enough to give you some clue about the film. Apparently the issue with Tree of Life is that it had too much plot, this film too is devoid of that problem.
Christian Bale is evidently someone having a midlife crisis. We see him in various vignettes, at party at a mansion, at a modeling shoot, walking down the street, walking on rooftops, at the seashore, under a dock, on a dock, in the LA river, driving in LA, driving in Las Vegas, driving in the desert, walking through a wind farm, well you get the point. Various people are in and around pools in all stages of dress. At times he's with his brother (Wes Bentley), his father (Brian Dennehy), his ex-wife (Cate Blanchett), and various women he's hooking up with (it's a long list including Natalie Portman and Freida Pinto). These aren't as much scenes as they are montages of imagery (sometime scenery, sometimes actors). If they do bring up a semblence of a plot point (an unwanted pregnancy), don't worry, they are dropped completely within a few minutes.
There's a seen of a tarot card reading, and by that I mean that there are images on the screen of Bale in a shop sitting at a table across from a woman turning over cards which look like they could be tarot cards. She speaks in another language and someone who might be standing behind her translates into English but it just sounds like the broken musings of the voiceover anyway. There's nothing that anyone would call a reading or a fortune. However, the film is broken into segments with title cards that seem to come from the Tarot (the moon, the hanged man, death, the hermit, etc.) I tried to see a connection between the titles and the following segment and never once found one. I mean that quite literally.
I saw Freida Pinto on a late night show, she said there was no script, she got several pages of enigmatic phrases that was supposed to help her. She saw Bale on set and wanted to discuss some lines to work on each other with, and then he told her that he didn't speak in the film. Here's another similar story. It seems obvious that they shot a bunch of footage and then spent a couple of years trying to edit it together into something coherent and failed utterly.
Bale and some of the characters have voiceovers (sometimes it's dialog but the camera is so infrequently on someone's face the assumption is it's not). That's fine in abstract, Malick's films are more poetry than prose and there should be a place for that in film. Two lines stood out to me and I found the quotes on IMDb.
Dennehy says: "You think when you reach a certain age things will start making sense, and you find out that you are just as lost as you were before. I suppose that's what damnation is. The pieces of your life never to come together, just splashed out there." I'm perfectly comfortable with the notion that there is no meaning of life. But seriously, if you're searching for one, hopping between LA parties, strip clubs and Las Vegas is so obviously not the way to find it. Now sure, many people have tried this method, but do need another movie about hiow unsucessful that will be? Do we need an abstract film on that?
A priest says: "If you are unhappy, you shouldn't take it as God's disfavor. Just the contrary. Might be the very sign He loves you. He shows His love not by helping avoid suffering, but by sending you suffering, by keeping you there. To suffer binds you to something higher than yourself, higher than your own will. Takes you from the world to find what lies beyond it." The priest is basically facing the camera when he says this, it's hard to not take it as the purpose of the film. Malick brought us this two hour film to make us suffer and through that we can come out better for it. That would be fine if it worked, but I learned nothing from the experience that I didn't know in the first five minutes.
It's sad that Malick has so much talent and so little to say. I hope he gets help.