We look this week at a comparatively recent film (2006) that we missed first time around. For that matter, so did most people. It’s doing a little better on DVD.

Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) spent six year trying to get this film made. Original stars Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett quit, funding was slashed, original set pieces were auctioned….

Title: The Fountain

Available from Amazon.com

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky.

Cast:

Hugh Jackman as Tomas/Tommy/Tom
Rachel Weisz as Queen Isobel/Izzi
Ellen Burnstyn as Dr. Guzetti

Full
Cast and Crew

Premise:

The film features Jackman and Weisz in three connected stories: a conquistador seeks eternal youth, a contemporary doctor experiments with a compound that could save his dying wife, and a future traveler searches for answers in a distant nebula.1

High Point:

The sixteenth-century storyline features several strong scenes. I wish Aronofsky had devoted more of the script to this narrative, which has so much potential yet feels truncated.

Low Point:

It’s an interesting film, but not consistently an engaging one. Despite a comparatively brief running time and three separate stories, it’s too slow-moving and self-serious.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6. The narrative is complex; the underlying premise and message less so. However, I cannot think of another recent film quite like this one.

Story: 4/6. It’s a brave attempt, but the three tales never cohere in a dramatically powerful way.

Effects: 5/6. When the film’s budget was slashed, the filmmakers took a missed cue from 2001: A Space Odyssey. A couple of the shots in that film’s rebirth sequence used extreme close-ups of chemical reactions. The Fountain uses similar effects, cheaper than CGI and in this case, more effective. I have to wonder why the technique has been used so infrequently.

Acting. 4/6. Jackman does well as three overwrought incarnations of Tom. The rest of the cast is average.

Production: 5/6. The filmmakers accomplished much on a limited budget.

Emotional Response: 4/6.

Overall: 4/6.

In total, The Fountain receives a score of 31/42.

1. Obligatory nerdy footnote: the film clearly identifies the great nebula in Orion, and claims it results from a star dying. In fact, that nebula is a stellar nursery, collapsing into new stars. Is this a deliberate mistake meant to reflect the film’s themes, or the usual bad Hollywood science?