"(R) One and a half stars
The Fountain deals with the quest for immortality. Accordingly, the film takes forever to end. Please understand, I’m not just popping off here. This movie is excruciating. Though only 95 minutes long, it felt like three hours. Some have described the production as trippy, but I can’t imagine what combination of drugs it would take to make this experience a positive one.
Directed and co-written (with Ari Handel) by Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream), the story goes back and forth between three settings that span a thousand years. Hugh Jackman, emoting his fanny off, is front and center in all three, with Rachel Weisz hovering in the background. Ellen Burstyn appears in the dominant plotline, trying to convince Jackman’s character that the path he is taking will lead to nowhere good.
Go, Ellen, go!
In the 16th century, Jackman plays Tomas, a conquistador sent to Central America by Queen Isabel (Weisz) to search for the legandary Tree of Life and its sticky white sap (ahem) that gives life eternal. Tomas engages in a lot of swordplay and seething during his quest. Will he find and tap the Tree of Life or is he fated only to push up daisies?
Ah, but wait. Could it be that all the conquistadoring is just part of a story being written in the present by Izzi (Weisz again), a charming, live-for-the-moment young woman with a terminal brain tumor? Izzi’s manuscript, incidentally, is handwritten with gorgeous penmanship and not a single mistake. Nice work, Izz. Anyway, her honey bunny Tommy (Jackman again, but without a beard) is a scientist desperately trying to find a cure for the tumor, and death in general, by doing surgery on monkeys. He also cries a lot and throws things.
During the course of the experiments, the monkey gets injected with a bit of the Tree of Life, which appears to turn back the clock for the aged animal. “Focus on that,” implores Dr. Lillian Guzetti (Burstyn), Tommy’s very indulgent boss, but Tommy will have none of it. His focus is on curing Izzi’s tumor and nothing will get in his way, not even Izzi, who just wants a little attention.
Cut to the future, where Tom Creo (Jackman once again, now completely bald) floats around in a bubble that also contains the Tree of Life, which is not looking very healthy. The bubble, a space ship, I guess, is traveling towards some point in the cosmos that the ancient Mayans throught was significant. Creo periodically holds a finger near the tree and fibers from the tree stretch out towards him. Creo sustains himself by eating pieces of bark from the tree, which can’t be good for their relationship. Oh, and the ghostly visage of Izzi visits him periodically.
Sound interesting? It isn’t. The prescence of Creo in the space bubble is a pretty clear indicator that neither Tomas the headstrong conquistador nor Tommy the driven surgeon will get the job done. As for the space bubble tangent, Aronofsky offers lots of striking imagery — the trippy stuff — but nothing approaching resolution, or even an interesting theory.
The filmmaker told an interviewer that he intended the movie to be a meditation useful to anyone, regardless of their belief system. After reflecting on The Fountain, I had a revelation. Life is short. Too short to waste time on boring, pretentious, humorless drivel like this.