by Andrew James
The Fountain takes place within three different generations. We skip to and from each generation seamlessly as if each storyline is an allegory of the other. Most of the film takes place in the current where Jackman plays Tom Creo; an obsessive surgeon trying to find a cure for the cancer that is eating his wife (Wiesz) alive. "Simultaneously," in the 15th century, a young conquistador (Jackman) is on a quest to find the tree of life under the order of his queen (Wiesz). Meanwhile, 500 years in our future, a bald version of Jackman is in a bubble like vessel heading towards the stars with some sort of life giving tree and images (real or imagined) of a woman; again played by Ms. Wiesz.
Of course the meaning of it all is much deeper than explained above, yet many audience members won't find much more to it than that; hence the booing and walk-outs at Cannes. I don't believe that the film warrants this booing or walking out of. Anyone who has loved and lost can truly appreciate what the film is trying to say, although maybe saying it too forcefully, redundantly (with 3 similar storylines), uninterestingly and confusingly.
Apparently, Hugh Jackman is a decent actor. He's much more than a wolverine or a silly prince from the past sent through time to fall in love with Meg Ryan. His range of emotion and his versatility in The Fountain was surprising to say the least. It's nothing Oscar worthy, but it's definitely something to be admired. Couple his performance with last year's best supporting actress Academy Award winner, Rachel Wiesz and you have a wonderful cast solidified by the great Ellen Burstyn. But a great cast and above average acting a great film does not necessarily make.
The cinematography is beautiful and there are definitely spectacles to behold within The Fountain. However, so much of it seems contrived as though the film-makers knew the story couldn't stand on its own and had to employ some visual sleight of hand as the film isn't quite as poignant or thought provoking as it likes to think it is.
Basically what it comes down to is mood. If you're looking for an interesting view of life and death with some astounding visuals wrapped around a wonderful storyline with an intriguing, action-packed backdrop as the trailer suggests, you're in for a severe let down. If, on the other hand, you can look deeper into things and enjoy the poetry of life as it appears on this particular canvas, you may be thoroughly impressed with Aronofsky's obviously ambitious and galant attempt at giving us a masterpiece. Unfortunately, for most, this is far from a masterpiece and closer resembling just a piece.
For a deeper and more thought provoking look at the film (along with some spoilers, marked as such), try this discussion at the Twitch forums
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for The Fountain