Location: Los Angeles, California

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" is a hugely ambitious misfire. Since it was my most anticipated film of the year, of course I am rather disappointed. And yet, I sort of knew something was up when I learned its runtime was a scant 96 minutes. You simply cannot fit three parallel stories that span 1,000 years into that amount of time.

What I was not expecting was that Aronofsky would butcher the narrative into a nonsensical and ultimately inconsequential splatter. Instead of establishing a natural ebb and flow between these three storylines, Aronofsky juxtaposes them without reason or rhyme. Not only are we, the audience, left completely in the dark, but this temperamental editing scheme practical obliterates any connection we have to the characters.

And it reduces the futuristic segment to silly moments of Hugh Jackman either yoga meditating or eating a tree (which, mind you, is also his wife - don't ask). I swear that 50% of the dialogue in this section of the film consisted of two lines: "Finish it" and "Don't worry, we're almost there." In between those lines, you'd have something like this: Hugh Jackman turns to tree and says, "Through that last dark cloud is a dying star, and soon enough, Xibalba will die. And when it explodes, you will be reborn. You will bloom, and I will live." And then Jackman eats some tree bark. Delicious.

As I discovered when talking about "The Fountain" with a friend, it is quite possibly one of the easiest films to make fun of (just wait until Jackman, in full legs folded Yoga stance, decides to penetrate his intergalactic bubble; or when Jackman, upon reaching the Tree of Life, decides to drink its sexually-connotative sap).

But part of what makes it so easy to criticize is that Aronofsky truly shoots for the stars with this one, and that's to be admired in an age when so many artists strive for mediocrity. And even though its story falls a few eons short of its obvious idol, "2001: A Space Odyssey," the movie is still a visually breathtaking work and an intriguing failure.

I have no doubt Aronofsky can rebound from this, but he might be in need of a visit from a creative monolith sometime soon.

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)


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