Saturday, November 25, 2006

Deep Water in a Shallow "Fountain"

* * * Warning!! * * *

The following review doesn't even try to avoid spoilers. There's no way to talk about this film without revealing entirely too much. And I'm not even going to try. I recommend not reading any farther until you've seen the movie The Fountain.

I will say that it's worth seeing at least once, but not necessarily at full price, and definitely not if you're a single guy. For the average guy, this is a movie to take a girl to - preferably a girl who enjoys having long philosophical talks about the meaning of what you've just seen. If both of you watch Nascar and reruns of Beverly Hillbillies or the Munsters, just move on now.

Go. This is not the movie for you. Borat is playing at the other end of the Cineplex. Just go there. Trust me. You'll be much happier.

We have now stopped making "safe" comments about The Fountain. You have been warned.

Yesterday, we went to see The Fountain, a new film staring Wolverine and that lady from the Mummy movies. This is one of the few times I wished that I smoked pot - I suspect that the best way to see this movie is to be stoned out of your mind.

The ads say that it's "a love story that spans 3,000 years!" That may or may not be true. From my vantage point, though, what we had were two stories and a symbolic metaphor, all twisted together into an hour-and-a-half-long rope.

There's no real coherent, linear story line here, nor is there a standard "happy ending." I suppose that some people might leave the theater feeling that this was a life-changing movie. Those same people probably also get more out of the works of Deepak Chopra than I do.

It was a beautiful movie, a giant, throbbing romance novel of a movie. The modern-day love story between the dying woman and the research scientist is a real heart-render. Some people might even think that this movie was deep and meaningful. However, if you've already come to terms with the fact that everybody dies, you aren't likely to find your view of the universe altered by The Fountain - it's shallow, in the same way that a model earnestly explaining a self-help concept she'd read about: easy to watch, but in the end, you come away slightly confused by some of the concepts that had been washing over you.

Hugh Jackman was given the opportunity to emote like a champ. His character goes through the entire range of human emotion, and he did it with style. He might very well garner an Academy Award nomination for his work in this film. I'll be surprised if Ms. Weisz does the same, though.

Between The Fountain and his stints in the various X-Men movies (and the upcoming Wolverine, for that matter), did you notice that Hugh Jackman is apparently making a career out of potentially immortal characters?

It all ties together pretty well. In the future, the bald Wolverine is shepherding an ancient tree toward a nebula called Sebulba, he talks to the tree as if it were a dead lover, and he keeps seeing the present-day Mrs. Mummy as a hallucination. In the present, the dying Mummy-lady shows Dr. Wolverine the nebula Sebulba through her telescope, he's trying to cure cancer with the bark of a newly-discovered old-growth tree from Central America, and she has written a book about the Conquistador Wolverine. In the past (or in her book, or maybe both), Conquistador Wolverine (or would that be Carcay├║?) is on a quest through the Mayan empire trying to find the Tree of Life.

I'm really not clear whether the last scene of the Conquistador storyline, where he flowers to death, was the abrupt end of a relatively abrupt man, or a hallucination caused by the Tree Sap of Life ripping through his body. I can go either way on that question. (My wife, by the way, leaned over at that point and whispered, "See? That's why you shouldn't swallow apple seeds.") Although the fact that Conquistador Wolverine turned into a shrub, and Bald Wolverine was pushing a tree through space in a snow-globe is an interesting coincidence. And Dr. Wolverine planted a seed on top of her grave when she died, which means that the tree he's trucking through the stars might just be the tree that she grew into from... oh, Christ, forget it. It's not worth the headache.

There were a number of recurring themes in The Fountain. A vaguely Moorish lattice-work, golden light, the cross, and (obviously) the Tree of Life all recur frequently. Interestingly, so do small hairs and gummy saliva.

In this film, we had an Australian man and a British woman starring in the main roles of a film shot in New York and Canada. Throughout the modern and futuristic portions of the film, they sounded generically Midwest-American. However, in the early part of the film (when they're both playing Spaniards), they used vaguely British accents.

Some hard-core Christians are going to be upset about the way this movie intertwines Christian, Buddhist and pagan imagery, and even a touch of Mayan and Muslim, if you look hard enough. But they'd have a hard time with the central concept of this movie: that this man either lived forever, or kept getting reincarnated, or was a symbol for eternal life.

I think that my son Luke had the best summation of the movie. He thought that the target demographic for this movie was potheads and people who don't understand movie trailers. Which seems close enough, but I think he left out New Agey types and people who read romance novels.

Having seen The Fountain, I have to say that I don't think it will make a great deal of money in the theaters. But I also won't be surprised if the first run of DVDs sells out within days.

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