The Fountain Review

Nov 24, 2006 | 5:10am EST

The story itself seems to span a wide range of places and times but it’s basically an odyssey of one man and his eternal struggle to save the woman he loves. The primary focus is on modern-day scientist Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman) who is desperate to find a cure for the cancer killing his beloved wife Isabel (Rachel Weisz). She however is ready to accept her fate even researching and writing a fictional treatise on the Tree of Life an ancient Mayan myth as it relates to a 16th-century Spanish conquistador Tomas who goes on a quest to find it in order to save Spain’s Queen Isabella. Then we jump ahead and see Tommy as a 26th-century astronaut traveling through deep space in a giant bubble the Tree of Life enclosed with him (which would explain why he has lived this long). Tommy is still grappling with the mysteries that have consumed him for a millennium but finally The Fountain converges into one truth as the Thomas of all periods--warrior scientist and explorer--comes to terms with life love death and rebirth. Light fluffy stuff right? The Fountain’s plot line is almost too disjointed but the performances especially from Jackman sell it. The Wolverine we’ve come to know and love hasn’t had much of a chance to show his acting skills in feature films. On the Broadway stage perhaps but certainly Van Helsing and Kate & Leopold do not in any way do Jackman justice. This year however he’s had two rather excellent turns in The Prestige and now in The Fountain and suddenly there’s a newfound respect for the actor. As Tommy Jackman’s desperation never goes into maudlin overdrive as these roles often do and he handles grief in a very powerful—and realistic—way. Well as realistic as The Fountain lets you get anyway. The Oscar-winning Weisz is also quite stunning as the varying Isabels and makes her presence known even when she’s not on screen. But still playing a dying woman in a hospital bed has some limitations. There are some nice supporting turns as well especially from Ellen Burstyn now an Aronofsky regular (she starred in his Requiem for a Dream) as a fellow scientist trying to get Tommy to face the inevitable. The other person who sells The Fountain is writer/director Darren Aronofsky a guy who definitely listens to the beat of a different drummer—and doesn’t really give a damn if you get his movies or not. Take his film Pi for example...definitely WAY out there. And then there’s Requiem for a Dream a film which left you feeling pretty darn glad you weren’t a drug addict. Still it’s obvious putting aside all his weird tastes the man knows how to craft a film. The Fountain is by far Aronofsky’s most ambitious film to date in which he skillfully incorporates not only 16th-century Spanish costumes but special effects as well. It is also in essence a love letter to his real-life companion and mother of his child Rachel Weisz as he frames the movie around her in the most visually striking yet so serene ways. Her illuminated face alone will take your breath away but the images in the future are particularly mesmerizing as Tommy is floating through a cluster of dying yellow stars in a bubble with a gnarled tree towards some kind of rebirth reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. While some may not appreciate this beautiful albeit slow-moving romantic film The Fountain will probably get a huge Buddhist following.

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