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Movie Review: The Fountain

The Fountain
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky
Warner Bros.

It’s one of those productions of Hollywood lore; one that took six years to make and once starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in a pay-or-play deal, lost $18 million after production started and got axed twice, and sent one of the most promising filmmakers into near-obscurity.

The film before us now is different from the one that would have been made a few years ago.  After 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky’s dizzying film about addiction, I really wonder what his original vision would have been.  It’s almost like the time between films sobered Aronofsky a bit.  Even though you’ll see the usual descriptions of The Fountain as “ambitious,” it’s actually not as ambitious as it seems.

Oh, the visuals are arresting, though, and the story of Tom Creo (Hugh Jackman), a man looking for the cure to cancer for his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz), seemingly spanning generations, certainly looks ambitious.  But in the end, the story in the present, what I’ve just described, is the only “reality” in the movie.  The past and future are based on a book Izzi writes entitled “The Fountain,” and it’s a metaphorical adventure mirroring the events of the present, in which Tom sacrifices his life and the precious time he has left with his wife to find a cure.

Ambitious to me would have been the actual spanning of generations; and one thing that could have made this really interesting is taking a cue from the series finale of Alias.  In that episode, a character is given eternal life, but then gets trapped under a huge rock.  I thought The Fountain was going to be about two people who had discovered eternal life, but one had cancer and suffered outrageously for it for centuries; a millennium even, and the other had been toiling to the detriment of his marriage to find the cure.  This is not the case.

Finding out that the past and future portions of the film serve as a metaphorical journey doesn’t hurt it that much; it’s actually an interesting, entertaining film a lot of the time, grandly told.  But when the ultimate message is, “You should spend more time with your loved ones than at work,” then you might be taken aback by how much the film goes through to tell you this.

But after leaving many battered and knocked on their ass by Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain is really tame in comparison.  It lacks the liveliness of Requiem and his extreme-indie Pi.  Like I mentioned before, I wonder if the six years took a lot of Aronofsky’s whiz-kid sensibility out of him.  I hope not. 

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