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September 14, 2006
The Disappointment

Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” is based upon a fascinating premise – Hugh Jackman’s seeking immortality in three different eras (1500, 2000, 2500), in every instance to save the woman he loves (Rachel Weisz). Alas, while Aronofsky’s visual flare is superb, the narrative he crafts is an utter mess.

As a conquistador in 1500, a doctor in 2000 and a space man of sorts in 2500, Jackman plays a character who comes to fear death, rather obsessing to live forever with his love. The juxtaposition between the three eras is well accomplished indeed (if a tad obvious). Moreover, Aronofsky’s visual vision is extraordinary. Blending camera work and visual effects, he not only manages to build the mood in every scene strictly with the visuals, but he also dazzles the audience with pure spectacle.

Alas, there’s a reason a film should be grounded in the script. The director should be allowed to explore his vision but a story has to be told. Of course, the film credits a writer (Aronofsky himself) but it really feels like more of a string of brilliant ideas than any sort of coherent narrative. While many individual scenes are great, story is not well built at all. In fact, I’d say anyone not familiar with the plot before going in would be a tad confused for a good long while, especially in the 1500 and 2500 segments of the film.

The 1500 and 2500 sections of the film also really felt like ends of a narrative in and of themselves, not stories that fit well into the broader film. And with the film just 96 minutes long, that really doesn’t work. While Jackman fares fine (but he could have been better with better material to work him), Weisz was truly underwhelming.

“The Fountain” is filled with wonderful ideas and tremendous visual pizzazz. Someone just needed to tell Aronofsky when it well time to stop playing magician and start playing storyteller. Because he really let a potential masterpiece become mediocre filmmaking.


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