Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
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With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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Last week it was reported that Natalie Portman would play the lead in and produce the adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Yesterday, citing "a very reliable (and handsome) inside source," Pajiba reported that David O. Russell is coming on to direct and adapt. Meanwhile, the Tobey-Maguire-as-Bilbo-Baggins rumor has been denied.
Russell has finished shooting The Fighter with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg, and his derailed comedy Nailed, which shut down production four times, is still listed by IMDB as being in postproduction. He's got no less than seven other projects said to be in development.
Over in Hobbit-ville, a report by Latino Review said that early-stage talks are ongoing between CAA and the producers of Guillermo del Toro's Hobbit for Tobey Maguire to star as Bilbo Baggins.
Both The One Ring and Movieline reported later, however, that the rumor was not true. "This is false!" Maguire's publicist Kelly Bush told Movieline. The One Ring wrote, "Our sources indicate this rumor is NOT valid, again, this is NOT true according to our sources."
I won't give away the film's clever opening except to say that it's
playfully inventive and if you buy into it it ties together nicely
with the rest of the film. Essentially it's a film about the American
dream Hollywood style: Two young kids growing up in Smalltown USA who
go to Tinseltown with delusions of grandeur hoping to escape their
insulated world for fame and fortune. Oh yeah and one of the guys sells
his virginity to get funding for their film.
Jeremy Jordan and Mark Ballou as CFDS (Chronic Filmmaking Dream
Syndrome) sufferers Dave and Ethan are believably earnest in a 1990
"Dawson's Creek" sort of way. Ruth De Sosa is the Beverly Hills
housewife exploiting the sexually repressed boys for cheap thrills and
Courtney Gains plays the dim-witted producer. No stars here but no
Probably the most amazing thing about the film is Lu's fascination with
and affinity for Americana. It's hard to believe the director has only
been in the United States for five years; her feeling for the small-town
characters and their situations is dead-on. And Lu has a great sense of
visual style particularly for such a low-budget affair.