Combining a heart-wrenching love story with metaphysics, the Fountain of Youth, time travel, modern science and any number of other strange elements may seem odd, but somehow eclectic director Darren Aronofsky makes The Fountain work. In a really weird way.
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 powerfuland realisticway. 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 drummerand 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.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.