The Fountain
Director: Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream)
Writers: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Producer: Arnon Milchan, Iain Smith, Eric Watson
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Wiesz, Ellen Burstyn
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 96 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

by Andrew James
     Here is a perfect example of a film that will probably be much better with a repeat viewing after discussing it with others and trying to figure out the deeper meaning. Aronofsky has created a pallete of typical mixed with the wondrous to create what some might call a visual delight, while I myself consider it to be more of a poetic mess that needs further scrutiny. This is a true case of a movie that can't really be recommended either way. Some will adore its sentimentality and gorgeousness, others will be bored by its fragmented narrative and uninteresting and confounding storyline.

      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.
UPDATE (12/9): I just learned that there is no CGI employed whatsoever in The Fountain. To get the crazy beautiful colors and swirls of the nebulae to look realistic, the makers used water color and oil with a light positioned just right or something like that. To me, this immediately makes for a far better film. Knowing that when you see the ilm may help to increase your enjoyment and indeed, your repect for the film.

      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

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site