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Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006 04:26 pm

Philosophy for twits

The Fountain visually impressive but disappointingly flawed

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The FountainRunning time 1:36Rated PG-13

In a town where hedging your bets on the success of a film has become a business unto itself, there’s little room for movies that feature fractured storylines, mystic undertones, and a trippy ending out of the ’60s. Remarkably, director Darren Aronofsky found a studio willing to fund his ambitious and expensive personal vision, but the result is disappointingly flawed. Although there are a few things to recommend The Fountain, most notably its fantastic visuals, the movie is undone by a sophomoric approach to its metaphysical subject and an embarrassing turn from one of the movie’s most reliable actors.

Set in three different eras, The Fountain focuses on the search of one man (or, more accurately, the same man reincarnated) for the secret to immortality. In Spain, during the Renaissance, Tomas the conquistador is sent by the queen to find the Tree of Life, believed to grow in Mayan territory. In the present day, Dr. Tom Creo is a driven researcher searching for a way to stop the growth of the brain tumor that’s killing his wife, Izzi, an author who’s working on a book about a conquistador on a quest for the Tree of Life. And in the future, a lone man, charged with keeping a sacred tree alive in a transparent floating space orb, is visited by the vision of a woman who urges him not to give up his mission.

In each story the couple is played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz — and their performances are a contrast in styles that clash horribly. Jackman has developed into an actor of some diversity, but he’s not immune to choosing bad scripts (Swordfish) or giving a bad performance (Van Helsing). Here he eschews restraint as if it were a fatal disease. While Jackman raves, his co-star gives a confident, assured performance, knowing that there’s no need to shout to make an impact when you’re able to display a degree of conviction in your performance.

Although the lack of chemistry between its two leads is a detriment to the film, its biggest stumbling block is Aronofsky’s script. The connections among the three storylines hold little mystery; it’s obvious where this is all headed, and the simplistic, clunky dialogue that the cast is forced to deliver doesn’t lend a degree of realism or gravity to the proceedings.

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