Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Fountain - Movie Review

The Fountain 2006

Way back in 1998, when our dear friend Evil Scotty told us we simply had to watch “л” we acquiesced (‘cause we’re a little bit afraid of him) and witnessed the cinematic birth of Darren Aronofsky, the then hot new “auteur”. We had to agree that he definitely had a sense of visual flair and was a competent director who didn’t completely drive us mad with indie yearnings. When somebody finally threw him some cash and he gave birth to “Requiem for a Dream”, we thanked him profusely for providing one of our favorite acting divas, Ellen Burstyn with a pseudo comeback role that nabbed her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress . . . that she ended up losing to Julia Roberts for “Erin Brockovich”. Excuse us a moment while we throw up our dinner at the memory of the Academy thinking Julia Roberts is a better actress than Ellen Burstyn. Moving on.

Well, now Darren is back with a . . . what the hell would you call this? A science fantasy rumination on the fluidity of time, love and memory? A visually exotic rambling on the mystery of life, the afterlife and infinity? A masturbatory fantasy by a ten year old geek that did a book report on Ponce de León and his legendary search for the “Fountain of Youth” in fourth grade history class and is trying to force it down our throats as art? Or just an incredibly boring, vapid, featherweight movie that attempts to ask a lot of questions bordering on mysticism and fails completely? Yes, let’s go with that one.

For Darren has written a fantasy film centered on the yearning that mankind has experienced to solve the mystery of death by cheating it via an elixir of everlasting youth. Be careful what you wish for young man! While we would never question Mr. Aronofsky’s ability to paint a lovely picture, and he does have a very nice sense of composition that shows he actually paid attention during one or two film courses, but he clearly missed his screenwriting classes. Or maybe he just failed them.

The Fountain” is a joke. A joke on the audience, the actors and the producers of this film. It is an infinitely bad movie masquerading as a love story for the ages and beyond. It features some talented actors, some not so talented and an all too brief role for our beloved Ellen Burstyn who must still be so thankful for her sixth Oscar nomination that she has agreed to sleepwalk through her role as the trusted mentor figure / doctor. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The Fountain” concerns three ages of man. One man in particular. One Tomas, a Spanish knight out to search for the mysterious “Tree of Life” that will provide the magic nectar to save mankind from death. At the behest of his Queen Isabel, Tomas braves the jungles and Indiana Jones style traps riddled with flying arrows and death hungry natives defending the exact whereabouts of the Tree.

Tomas will one day return as Tommy, the beloved of one Izzi who is slowly succumbing to Ali McGraw syndrome and dying a beautifully soft focus death. Tommy is a research scientist who is just seconds away from discovering a cure, or magical restorative drug that can repair and heal the damaged body. A godsend for Izzi if he can crack the code in time.

Tommy will later become a bald, neutered monk-like creature floating in a giant snowglobe along with the Tree of Life cascading across the galaxies to only God knows where, if there is still a God at this point, ‘cause we were honestly beginning to doubt His or Her existence by the amount of bile that had built up in our chest after watching even one half hour of this dreck. Sadly, the film chooses to drift as aimlessly through the night as Tommy Monkboy in his floating bubble. In reality, when we glanced at our watch after the films dismally trite ending, we realized the movie was only 96 minutes long! You know when a film is 96 minutes long and plays like its “Shoah Part II”, you’re in trouble.

As Tomas / Tommy / Dr. Creo / Monkboy, Aronofsky has cast that tap dancing feral superhero cum Broadway star, Hugh Jackman. Now, we consider Hugh to be a very underrated actor. His hunky exterior has been given short shrift in the movies, outside of his starmaking role as Wolverine in the “X-Men” franchise. Here, as the wandering night errand for his dying mistress, he doesn’t embarrass himself and actually manages to be quite believable in all his drag getup, but he is acting off an empty plate. The words are simply not there. This film is about imagery, which can be a good thing if you are a truly visionary director or it can be an insufferable bore. If you picked option number two, you would be correct.

As the regal death maiden, Queen Isabel / Izzi, Oscar winner (Ouch, that hurts. Twice in one review?) Rachel Weisz does a nice Ali McGraw imitation and that’s about it. Seriously, people. Does nobody else remember Rachel in “The Mummy” series? Because pretty much anything outside of that she seems to barely get by in. Here, she is opulently decked out in the appropriate queenly jewel encrusted robes and finery, and alternately shaved and plucked to convince us of her near death like state as the cancer ridden Izzi. Unfortunately, she might have dropped a few pounds for that role, since she is the healthiest looking dying girl we’ve seen since Shelley Winters in “The Poseidon Adventure”.

Our beloved Ellen Burstyn barely glimmers in the eviscerated role of Dr. Lillian Guzetti, the overseer of the testing done by Tom. She is on hand to give friendly but stern advice, and little else. Although compared to the rest of the cast, we were prepared to hand her an Oscar for merely showing up and not embarrassing herself.

The embarrassment we will leave to Darren Aronofsky. Darren. Listen. Yes the snowglobe is pretty to look at. So are many actual snowglobes, it doesn’t make them terribly interesting as drama however. If your point was to make an interesting film about time travel, you failed. If your point was to make a meditative examination into the everlasting quality of love and spirituality, you failed miserably. If your point was to make us laugh out loud at the most inopportune moments, congrats you succeeded!

For once we finally witness Tomas discovering the secret to the Tree of Life, as he throws himself with wanton abandon upon its hefty trunk, pierces the bark with his unsheathed sword calling forth the hot, creamy liquid and upon bended knees begins to guzzle the brew oh so hungrily and greedingly until he is spent and lying prone on his back. Well, this scene is not exactly doing Hugh Jackman any favors with the tabloids, is it now?

We don’t know what to make of this mess of a movie. While some of the floating snowglobe visuals were pretty in a hidden porpoise kinda way, the visuals are in complete misalliance to the rest of the movie. There is no movie here. Perhaps the whole crew was still zonked out on the leftover drugs from “Requiem for a Dream”, and short of taking turns on the oversized double headed black dildo from that film’s finale, decided to go with the tree and the globes. Well, shame on you Darren. You should have stayed home. As you should, dear reader. Simply do not waste your time on a filmmaker that is more considered with making indecipherable movies that attempting to entertain his audiences with real ideas. Bless you all!

Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Story by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel

Hugh Jackman as Tomas / Tommy / Dr. Tom Creo
Rachel Weisz as Queen Isabel / Izzi Creo
Ellen Burstyn as Dr. Lillian Guzetti
Mark Margolis as Father Avila
Stephen McHattie as Grand Inquisitor Silecio
Sean Patrick Thomas as Antonio
Donnna Murphy as Betty
Ethan Suplee as Manny

Cinematography by Matthew Libatique
Film Editing by Jay Rabinowitz
Original Music by Clint Mansell
Costume Design by Renée April
Production Design by James Chinlund
Art Direction by Isabelle Guay, Michele Laliberte, Nicolas Lepage & Jean-Pierre Paquet
Set Decoration by Paul Hotte and Philippe Lord



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