Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Fountain (2006)

Darren Aronofsky's long-in-the-works romantic fantasy/sci-fi project confirms him as a unique talent and a visual stylist without compare; unfortunately, it also brings to light that the guy kind of needs a sense of humor. The heavy approach worked with Pi and Requiem for a Dream because it was necessary to set up thick atmospheres of dread and paranoia and inescapable ruin; the same approach applied here, though, merely makes the film feel oppressive. Furthermore, the unrelieved graveness opens up the film to some undeserved bad laughs related to its most outre images (a hairless man floating in space, a conquistador chugging creamy white sap from a tree). On that last bit: A good counterpoint would be The Holy Mountain, which has an even higher quantity of absurd and potentially guffaw-inducing imagery; the key difference is that Alejandro Jodorowsky recognizes -- and even has fun with -- the fact that his images and concepts can come off as very silly at best, cockeyed and half-baked at worst. Then there's the matter of casting: The crux of the film, the crucial romantic relationship that causes the determined Tommy (Hugh Jackman) to trip through time and space, doesn't convince because Rachel Weisz is fatally miscast. I generally like her, but she's stilted in the 16th century scenes and flighty and superficial in the 20th century scenes. Jackman is the film's soul, and he's very good. He damn near saves the film just from the force of his belief in the material, but he's playing up against a dead zone, and the film suffers because of it. At this point, one could make the auteurist assertation that Aronofsky's entire body of work is built around the expression and depiction of extreme states of compulsion and irrational behavior, yet it's more than mere show-and-tell. One gets the feeling from watching his films that Aronofsky truly understands what it is to be obsessed, to have an unquenchable hunger or drive (it takes more than mere gumption to make a film that looks as great as Pi on $60K), and that his films are merely a reflection of what he feels inside all the time. The Fountain is certainly as uncompromised as Darren could make it, and for that he deserves credit. But he may have obsessed over this one a bit too long, and the sterility of overthinking shines through.

Grade: C+

10 Comments:

Anonymous Mark said...

Sorry but i thought Rachel Weisz was the best thing about the Fountain. She at least gave a real performance while Hugh Jackman overacted like their was no tomorrow and the film was more pretentious than coherent.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

You see overacting, I see passion. For me, Weisz was barely there. Different strokes, I guess.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Linda E said...

Totally agree with you, Steve. For me, the best thing about the film was Hugh Jackman's incredibly raw, honest, emotional, beautiful performance. I've lost count of how many times I've watched the film (at least a half dozen in the theatre) and he broke my heart each time.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Kelly j said...

Hugh Jackman was the one miscast in my opinion. His performance was all over the place while Rachel Weisz knew that less was more. Anyway, i blame the script more than the actors, which made little sense at all.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Of course he was all over the place -- his character's emotional state was all over the place.

And I'd just like to note that I've gotten three comments in an hour on this, all from first-time posters. I think that's a record.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Stacy said...

I liked the film, it’s a real emotional rollercoaster and a mind bender to behold but I have to agree that while Hugh Jackman’s performance was good, it was way too over the top for its own good and made the film unintentionally funny in some places. Rachel Weisz on the other hand manages to give a lot more emotion by keeping her performance a bit more realistic and subdue.

By the way, great blog.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the ultimate "what the f*** was THAT?" movie. Which isn't necesarily bad, but it is in this case, because it's all so overrought and such a chore to sit through.

Andy Nowicki

2:20 PM  
Blogger Pacze Moj said...

I thought the sap-chugging and aftermath were supposed to be campy...

Regardless, I enjoyed the film, though I will have to join the chorus that didn't like Jackman. Didn't think Weisz was any better, mind you. The way they were both off added to the campiness.

Most interesting thing about the film: how small it felt, despite its time-defying quest.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Pacze: I'd like to think you're correct about the sap scene. But then, that would be the first recorded instance of an Aronofsky film actually containing a joke. So I dunno.

I think you're on to something with the scale of it all, though. It's an epic on one hand, yet on the other it's a simple (some might say simplistic) story about a dude who wants to save his wife. The other characters in the film hardly register, maybe because they're not supposed to.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

With Aronofsky, I think he fits the description by Kael of the 'twentysomething-year-old filmmaker with lots of talent, a headful of film but no knowledge of life.' Sadly, I actually feel the same applies to Jonze and a few others I'm blanking on.

5:19 PM  

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