Okay, so I had never seen this film until the other night. Before I had even got to the theater, I had maybe four people tell me in a Facebook post that they thought this movie was "bad". I didn't give those remarks any traction, because I'm sure these are the very same people who would say that Mother was also a bad film.
I vehemently disagree on both counts. I think that people forget who Darren Aronofsky is or his unique style of filmmaking. Yes, Darren Aronofsky films are NOT for everyone. I wouldn't take my mom and dad to an afternoon matinee of Pi, and that's fine. I don't expect the same people who love - say - Fast and The Furious to love THE FOUNTAIN or Mother or any of Aronofsky's films - not to say that there aren't people who love both, but I think Darren Aronofsky makes the films he wants to make (without much regard for what other people necessarily think) and the audience for that is a mixed bag. I was bemused going into seeing THE FOUNTAIN last night because I had these thoughts in my head. I'm not saying that Aronofsky is a golden gold of film or anything but I have never disliked anything he's made. Does this point to a problem with my abilities to properly dissect films? I don't know, and that's not the point of this piece. Once of the more striking things that our host for the evening, Dylan Marchetti (from Well Go USA) said in his introduction was "Fifty percent of you are going to hate this, and fifty percent of you are wrong". I loved that because it's brilliant and also spoke to my whole thought process upon approaching this film.
Marchetti also told us about how this film was met with a lot of trouble from the studio. Originally, Warner Bros. gave Aronofsky a one-hundred-million-dollar budget to produce the film. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were to be the top billed stars. Sets had already started being built in the Australian desert, when naturally; a new head of production came in and basically said "ABSOLUTELY NOT" to everything that was going on with the project. Cate Blanchett had to leave because she got pregnant and Brad Pitt left because of disagreements with the script. Production stopped on THE FOUNTAIN. Aronofsky created a graphic novel of the story, which I have to get my hands on, by the way. Eventually, Warner Bros green-lit the project again, this time with a $30 million budget and stars Hugh Jackman & Rachel Weisz (Aronofsky's girlfriend at the time, which, is something else this film shares with Mother in addition to the critical onslaught).
THE FOUNTAIN, like most Aronofsky films, has a mystical, spiritual undercurrent. Set in three different "worlds", the original trailer made the film look like something it really isn't. When I originally saw the trailer, I thought it was a sci-fi thriller with a love story. That is NOT what it is. It's a tragic love story that asks the question "is it possible that death is an act of creation?" I can see where some people may find this a little worthy of an eye-roll or two. I have never said that Aronofsky does not at least have the appearance of being pretentious. Regardless, I found the film beautiful and I must admit that in a couple of key scenes towards the end, I cried.
I don't really want to give a summation of the plot because it is a bit all over the place, but I'll give a quick one. Izzi (Rachel Weisz) and Tommy (Hugh Jackman) are married. Tommy is a scientist who is trying to find a cure for cancer. Izzy has brain cancer that is in its final stages. Izzi wrote a book that only has one chapter left and she asks Tommy to write it. This is the very basic plot structure, but since it is Aronofsky, there's A LOT more to it than just this. At best, this film is an extremely moving commentary on death and grief and how everyone handles it differently. At worst, it is a whitewashing of Mayan mythology with not enough focus on all the different subplots within it. I don't think this film is perfect but I would not say it's bad at all. It may not be Aronofsky's best film, but even Aronofsky's worst film is head and shoulders above a lot of other director's best. So get over your fear of Darren and watch the movie if you haven't. Or give it a re-watch with the knowledge that the film was not what Aronofsky originally intended, but what he could do within the constraints he was given. Also, it's an art film. Not all movies are designed specifically for every single human being's entertainment. To quote Sean Penn in one of my favorite episodes of Inside the Actor's Studio; "If you want entertainment, you get a couple of hookers and an eight-ball. People very happily and produly say there's room for entertainment strictly for its own sake, but I disagree with that. Film is just too powerful of a medium to be just that. There's gotta be some kind of human sharing in it and some kind of journey and risk-taking so it's exciting not only for the audience, but for the participants." I agree with him, and that's probably why I'll watch every movie Darren Aronofsky ever directs and love it to some degree, because he espouses the ethos of that quote without even trying.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it, and I'll be back with the first of July's Terror Tuesdays/Weird Wednesdays, which are Friday the 13th VII: New Blood and Invasion USA (vintage Chuck Norris for America's B-DAY) respectively. See you in the theater or here on Nightmarish Conjurings!!