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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.69%
Just Average: 11.21%
Pretty Crappy: 11.21%
Sucks: 10.28%

8 reviews, 59 user ratings

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Fountain, The
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by David Cornelius

"Looks great. Means nothing."
2 stars

All throughout “The Fountain,” Darren Aronofsky’s long-awaited, long-delayed follow-up to “Requiem for a Dream,” my mind could not shake comparisons to “Solaris,” both the 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky masterpiece and the 2002 Steven Soderbergh remake. Like the two “Solaris” films (Solarii?) , “The Fountain” takes a cryptic, grown-up view of science fiction and deals with themes of the truest essence of love and death. Yet while Aronofsky’s film is beautiful in both sight and sound, it is, unlike the film it wants to be, disappointingly, maddeningly, tediously, sometimes even accidentally hilariously empty. This is a film that assumes an intentionally confusing collage of scenes and long, quiet moments instantly equals meaningful. It is wrong.

It is also a movie with great promise, and even in the earliest scenes, even though you can feel the wheels already beginning to come off, you can also see what writer/director Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel were attempting. Here is the possibility to leave the audience thinking for days on the subject of love, sacrifice, and death. Instead, all we get are a bunch of shots of a bald Hugh Jackman floating around space in his pajamas, talking to a tree.

It is both as intriguing and as laughable as it sounds.

The script is one of those which jumps back and forth between time periods, often repeating itself. We alternate between three stories:

1. A very hairy Hugh Jackman is a Spanish conquistador during the Inquisition; Queen Isabel (Rachel Weisz) has instructed him to go to South America and find the Tree of Life, the very same Tree of Life from the Book of Genesis, a tree whose sap offers immortality.

2. A completely hairless Hugh Jackman is floating through space in a giant bubble, which contains him, a ginormous tree, and the remnants of a fountain pen. Floating through space alone is very boring, so sometimes Hugh Jackman talks to the tree. Rachel Weisz, not bald, occasionally appears as a ghost/vision/delusion and chats as well. Somebody somewhere keeps whispering “Finish it.”

3. Hugh Jackman, whose hair now sits at average length, is a modern day scientist studying brain tumors in the hopes of saving the life of his sickly wife, Izzy (Rachel Weisz, of course). Dr. Jackman tries using the bark of a tree from South America in curing a lab monkey; the side effects give the monkey a youthful vigor. For some reason, all of the fellow scientists, among them Ethan Suplee and Sean Patrick Thomas, always dress like longshoremen.

Aronofsky cuts in between these three tales in such a manner that it takes a while to figure out what’s happening and how it all connects, which is admirable: here is a filmmaker challenging the audience, demanding fullest attention. The problem is, once the pieces start to connect, you realize that there’s just not much there there. The entire ninety minutes of the film can be boiled down to two points: Hugh Jackman really loves Rachel Weisz, and Hugh Jackman is afraid to die. Lather, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

The film is so gorgeously presented that we’re more than willing to go with it as it figures out where it’s headed. Aronofsky, a master of composing stunning images, here pushes his talents to replicate the feel of Tarkovsky or Kubrick without losing his own personal style. Those long, methodical takes are, on their own, very lovely, and the special effects team, the set designers, and the costume crews all work to make this a feast for the senses. Above all, it’s Clint Mansell’s haunting musical score that fills the film with a striking beauty.

So we’re anxious for the film to pay off big, as we’re sold on how well it looks. Sure, we’re bored out of our minds, as the first hour is plodding and pretentious, yet surely all this artistic stuff is going somewhere, right?


What we get in the last half hour is the slow, sad realization that Aronofsky has focused so much on style that he forgot to work on substance. We get clues of this on the way there, of course: while the film is visually impressive, its screenplay is unbearably weak. Characters are underwritten and fail to engage the audience. We just can’t come to care about them or their problems. Dialogue is stilted, with references to a distant nebula that plays an essential part of the story’s cheaply obvious symbolism thrown in with great clumsiness; it’s odd to see a movie this desperate to appeal to the intellectual crowd bother with over-explaining some things that only the dumbest viewer would need to have repeated. This is a film that’s so anxious about looking grandiose that when it comes time to deal with the human angle, it trips over itself. Which is peculiar, considering the very point of the film is to examine the very core of humanity. Aronofsky cannot get his characters to connect with us, and the movie slowly crumbles.

Then comes that finale, the biggest mess of all, in which everything gets tangled in an embarrassing effort to out-puzzle “Solaris,” “2001,” and any other brainy, enigmatic sci-fi effort to come to mind. Scenes shift around and repeat beyond any usefulness, in a way that will cause more giggles than thoughtful nods of understanding; other moments drag to obnoxious worthlessness; one moment involving the flora at the base of the Tree of Life will remind you of “Creepshow” in its use of EC Comics-esque that’s-what-you-get irony (a bad, bad, bad idea all around, completely ill-fitting for this movie). When it’s over, you’ll realize that you sat through three very uninteresting stories and got nothing in return.

At its core, there is enough of a point to all of the goings-on that you can see what Aronofsky wanted to say. The aforementioned thoughts on life and death and love are there, but they’re sinking like a brick. There’s nothing in Aronofsky’s half-assed, sloppy story to inspire the viewer, to fill the audience with the same sense of wonder that made, say, “2001” the classic it is today. The filmmaker simply hopes that by tossing out a few “deep thoughts” and being intentionally mysterious and loading every shot with postcard-perfect imagery, it’d be enough for the more pretentious members of the moviegoing crowd to be tricked into finding it meaningful and beautiful and thought-provoking. And I have no doubt that some people will indeed love this movie, as it looks like it should mean something.

Look more closely, and you’ll see that it doesn’t mean enough. It’s “Solaris” by someone who can mimic the visual beauty of that work but cannot replicate the soul of the it. It’s “2001” by someone who failed to realize that the imagery enhanced the story, but was not the story itself. It is mature science fiction by someone who knows how he wants to say something, but never bothered with what he wanted to say. Aronofsky’s films have always been visually thrilling and intellectually challenging; with “The Fountain,” he’s merely a dull, bothersome poseur.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15011&reviewer=392
originally posted: 11/22/06 02:28:04
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2006 Fantastic Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell strange but compellling good visuals 4 stars
11/07/14 ugg モカシン UNITED States private employers added a larger-than-expected 198,000 jobs in February, bols 5 stars
3/28/14 JQ This movie is transcendent, describes my spirituality better than anything else I've seen 5 stars
9/28/12 roscoe I couldn't begin to explain it or understand it, but I do know it is terrible. 1 stars
12/08/10 Faraz J Wow..................... wow. 5 stars
6/08/10 Harvey Scott one of my 200 best, loved it! 4 stars
8/02/09 Homer Sills Very poor movie. Bad directing by Aronofsky. 1 stars
3/16/09 Greg White Man is chasing soulution, girl wants to be loved, they are pushed for time. Great movie! 5 stars
3/14/09 Paul Krafel Coming to accept death as part of the "fountain" that sustains the universe. 5 stars
1/14/09 FrankNFurter Creative,visually-stimulating feast for the senses.Moving and strange...a triumph. 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. great visuals, not so great film... 3 stars
10/21/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
5/12/08 Cerberus Shoking. Just saw it and i'm still feeling the affection of idea and music. Addictive. 5 stars
3/02/08 SamanthaPayntr beautiful imagery, i love Rachel Weisz! kind of confusing story, but still good. 4 stars
1/20/08 Brian Mckay beautiful tale of grief with trippy sci-fi story, reminiscent of 2001 or Silent Running 4 stars
12/07/07 Hello Stranger the ideas introduced in this film is amazing. the music and visuals is an added bonus 5 stars
11/23/07 rishi this movie can only be understood by the mystics at heart-touched my soul 5 stars
9/08/07 K. Sear Aronofsky is steadily showing he is a truly brilliant film maker. 5 stars
9/03/07 TreeTiger Good description from EricDSnider - however - the movie still needs more substance... 3 stars
7/20/07 pin Great filmmaking. Loved the ending. 5 stars
6/29/07 Indrid Cold The visuals only partially compensate for an incoherent, baffling story. 3 stars
6/07/07 Monday Morning Couldn't make it through the first 15 minutes 1 stars
5/26/07 fools♫gold Some would think it might look bad, but it means everything. Absolutely no accidents. 5 stars
5/26/07 Caiphn Beautiful film. 5 stars
5/18/07 Bob Right on the money. A poor man's Solaris (soderbergh) 2 stars
4/27/07 Craig Excellent story acting, & non-CGI visuals. 5 stars
4/24/07 Twerpy An interesting film that is worth contemplating, but something missing all the same... 4 stars
2/26/07 QH The most underrated and under apreciated movie ever- easily the best movie of 2006 5 stars
2/02/07 myles moving, ambitious, beautiful, will stand the test of time 5 stars
1/27/07 Edith Tide One of those "WTF did I just see?" flicks 2 stars
1/27/07 Gretchen Seitz Getting stuck in exasperating incoherent roles seems to be Rachel's vice! 1 stars
1/24/07 Ashley Corpening What's with repeaterdly showing Orion in position viewable only from Arctic regions? 1 stars
12/31/06 Sofia The life that is worth living forever is not necesarily the one you know as a human. 4 stars
12/26/06 Agent Sands Cannot explain itself, so it's created in a way relative to an impressionist painting. 3 stars
12/19/06 Rebecca This was a waste of time movie, So arsty and pretenious, and no conclusion to back it up! 1 stars
12/15/06 PAG disappointing 2 stars
12/15/06 arnold very deep emotion wonderful movie 5 stars
12/14/06 margie I can not believe the time i wasted. beautiful pictures, yes. but this is the best review 1 stars
12/11/06 Tiffany Didn't like it very much 2 stars
12/10/06 del meh...good movie, bad ending. Tries too hard to be deep. 3 stars
12/09/06 Yoda This is a love story that spans a 1,000 years and transcends death. Absolutely beautiful. 5 stars
12/08/06 Arty It delivers exactly what the reviewer says it promises-keep you thinking about love & death 5 stars
12/04/06 Nighy Oh, you dork call everything with a cryptic ending a "masterpiece." 2 stars
12/01/06 Alyce This review is completely wrong.This movie is the best of 2006. 5 stars
11/30/06 Prichett Three quarters of a great film, then a total train wreck of an ending...ruined it all. 3 stars
11/30/06 Janus Too bad the reviewer has to puke his own inability to appreciate the film out on this page! 5 stars
11/29/06 Marc If you liked 2001, Solaris, you'll like it 5 stars
11/28/06 Tara This is an ignorant, vapid assesment of this movie. It is a masterpiece. 5 stars
11/27/06 your worst goddamn nightmare Emotional, Beautiful; the cinematography, acting, music... Incredible film 5 stars
11/27/06 Patrick Amazing acting..visuals..music..finally a movie that has substance and style 5 stars
11/26/06 mlg Don't waste your money going to see this movie 1 stars
11/26/06 MarkF Story line was so condensed that it was missing a rhythm or meter. Acting was great. Studio 1 stars
11/26/06 Victoria This review is one the money! Speaking of money; I want my $9 back. 2 stars
11/26/06 james This review sums up why I never follow the advice of the critics. The movie is great! 5 stars
11/25/06 Morgan If I was on drugs (really, really good ones) this movie would have still sucked. 1 stars
11/25/06 PP I really liked it. I actually thought it was amazing. You must understand love to like it 4 stars
11/24/06 Leslie I liked the film. It takes a very open mind going into it, though. 5 stars
11/24/06 Paul Lundgard i have lost 90 minutes of my life i will never get back and it cost me 40 dollars to do it 1 stars
11/23/06 GB David is completely off the mark (and apparently has never seen either Solaris) 4 stars
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  22-Nov-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-May-2007



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