While Darren Aronofsky’s film The Fountain may be many things to many people, I can tell you what it is not: it is not the Worst Movie of All Time. It may be an odd, pretentious bit of adolescent poetry written on celluloid jeans, but have you seen Baby Geniuses? This movie was recommended for inclusion in our Hunt by one Lindsay Robertson, so take it out on her. But to be fair, I had heard that it was horrible from others as well, so take it out on others, too. And while we cannot seriously consider this one of film’s greatest mistakes, it’s definitely not very good, so there’s that.
The Fountain is so aggressively “unusual” that I’m not sure it has a plot. It centers around a tragic love story played out in three different time periods. There’s the contemporary love story in which Hugh Jackman plays a scientist who is conducting experimental surgery on monkeys to cure brain tumors. He is in love with Rachel Weisz, a writer who’s terminally ill. Then there is the past love story in which Hugh Jackman is a conquistador to Rachel Weisz’s Spanish Queen, and then there is the future story, in which Hugh Jackman is a bald pre-cog in Holocaust pajamas and Rachel Weisz is a CGI tree, traveling together in an indestructible magic bubble to outer-space? Think Sliding Doors meets Project X meets a Jamiroquai video.
Since plot has been eliminated, the movie’s main engine of progression is visual and dialogic leit motifs. There is the surgery lamps/candelabras/solar systems leit motif, and the “let’s go walk in the snow” leit motif. And then there is my favorite leit motif, the gross sentient hair leit motif.
Will always be gross.
While the movie is visually interesting and even has some decent moments in it, it’s less Jorge Luis Borges and more M.C. Escher. It’s the type of pathos and philosophical musing that belongs in college dorm rooms, over a round of mini-fridge-chilled Natty Lites. When the only reason that you know that a character is worth loving–in this case Rachel Weisz–is because another character says “She’s amazing,” it’s hard to get invested. “At first I thought she was just a poorly drawn two-dimensional stereotype of the terminally ill muse to a tortured and therefore more important man. But then I was told she was amazing. Your movie has touched me, sir.”
Not to mention the comprehension problems. I’m all for interpretive wiggle-room in my movies, but you could drive a wiggle-truck through the wiggle-holes in this one. For example, the past-life storyline in which Hugh Jackman is a Spanish conquistador is actually the plot of a book that the terminally ill Rachel Weisz is writing? So that means it’s just a metaphor? But then what is up with BALD HUGH JACKMAN IN PAJAMAS FLOATING INTO SPACE WITH A TREE INSIDE A MAGIC BUBBLE? According to wikipedia he is traveling through space in an ECOSPEHRIC STARSHIP. Oh duh. I can’t believe I didn’t realize that he was traveling through space in an ecospheric starship the whole time. I’m so fucking stupid.
I do love that Rachel Weisz is writing her novel about a Spanish conquistador by hand?
It’s 45 pages long. In Michiko Kakatuni’s New York Times review, she wrote “Nope.”
Anyway, whatever. I can imagine that someone likes this movie. It’s the Must Love Dogs for someone who took too many semiotics classes in college. Fair Enough. But I don’t care how much you love subtlety or visual poetry, this scene made me L out L.
After this he lays down on the ground and SPOILER ALERT his entire body ruptures into a bunch of plants. So, the moral of The Fountain is don’t be a magical tree-cum guzzler. Got it.
Next week, we cool it with the things that are just kind of bad and get back to things that are probably The Worst with Southland Tales.