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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Movie Review - The Fountain

Some movies you want to grade on a curve. Is it fair to grade a movie like Bad Boys II on the same scale that you grade the 40 year old Virgin? Furthermore, what scale do you use to grade a movie that is attempting to be sci-fi-existential-visual-poetry? Because that's what we have here, folks. Darren Aronofsky, who was a critical darling when he helmed Pi and Requiem For A Dream, got pretty much hammered when this one came out. Words like "ponderous", "pretentious" and "mess" were bandied about by movie critics who Curt Schilling would tell you have skill sets that are non-existent. How do you resolve the disparity between the ambition of The Fountain when compared to the low-hanging fruit of the popcorn movie?

We all have different answers to that question, directly related to how we feel about the movies in general. If you reject pretense and ambition as "artsy-fartsy", then stop reading now and move on to the next thing in your RSS feed.

Glad we've gotten past that.

The title The Fountain alludes to mythical 'Fountain of Youth' and the film addresses the notions of mortality and its opposite, immortality. The basic plot of the film revolves around a medical researcher (Hugh Jackman) and his dying wife (Rachel Wiesz). He's desperately searching for a cure for her cancer and death itself. She's trying to finish a novel about a 1500's era search for the fountain of youth as a mechanism for coping with her oncoming death. Neither of them quite reach those goals and that leads us to the third era explored the movie, a futuristic journey to a dying star. The climax of the film brings it all together and explores not the meaning of life, but the meaning of death.

That's what Aronofsky attempted in 96 minutes. That is not your rainy-matinee-popcorn movie. Does it work? Almost. Like most expressionist forays it swerves between being obscure and obvious. It's a bit slow paced. Hugh Jackman hams it up a bit, but at least he really puts it out there. And if you're the kind of person that tightly clings to every piece of the puzzle in hopes that they'll all fit together nicely by the time the credits roll, you will surely be disappointed in the ending. Those are the negatives.

But there's more good than bad here and I recommend that people watch this movie. It's visually striking. I found the story very engrossing and was very intrigued by the themes that were presented. It's not perfect, but it's perfectly memorable.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 possible couches.