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The FountainThe Fountain on DVD

By Jim Bray

Well there's an hour and a half of my life I'll never get back.

The Fountain is one of the most pretentious, plodding, and just plain weird movies I've seen in a while. Ostensibly a sci-fi film, which makes me a part of its target audience automatically, this mishmash stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as otherwise respected actors who either needed a quick gig to pay back taxes or who got talked into doing an "arty" film because it would bring them love and respect from their peers. Or because they're the main squeeze of the filmmakers. Or something.

Here's how the press release describes The Fountain: "The epic saga of The Fountain follows one man's (Hugh Jackman) passionate 1,000 year quest to save the woman he loves as he exists in three eras: as conquistador Tomas in 16th century Spain, as scientist named Tommy in the present day, and finally as astronaut Tom in the 26th century. As Tommy struggles to save the life of his wife Izzie (Rachel Weisz), three separate stories converge into one truth, as the Thomas of all periods – warrior, scientist, and explorer – comes to terms with life, love, death and rebirth.

Above that, they say it features "courageous performances by Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Ellen Burstyn," which is probably true since this could be a career ender…..

I think the one truth is that this movie really missed the opportunity to be entertaining.

What plot there is revolves around the Tree of Life, which the filmmaker says will bring eternal life if you drink its sap. I felt like the sap, though, for sitting through it.

I have no problem with a movie that makes me think or that challenges in one way or another, but I have a problem with artsy fartsy for its own sake. Artistic flair is all well and good, but if your plot is so incoherent and/or meandering that an audience of average intelligence is put to sleep, you've failed in your attempt to communicate.

And that's this movie's fatal flaw. Oh, we sat through it, but it was an ordeal.

The story jumps from era to era and by the time you've sat through enough of it to figure out what's going on, it's far too late: you no longer care. Even the film seems unsure of whether its three sections are really connected, or how, and even though all three sections deal with the Tree of Life, the pieces are never really intertwined or wrapped up satisfactorily.  

Jackman is fine, as are Weisz, Ellen Burstyn and the rest of the cast. They deserve credit for having stuck it out. The production values are okay, or so it seems, but most of the film is so dark it's hard to tell – maybe there was so little budget left over after paying the stars that they couldn't afford lights….

And the special effects of the nebula scenes look as if they're inspired by Terry Gilliam animation from his Monty Python days (specifically, the parting clouds through which God makes his appearance to send Arthur and his gang on their merry way in "Holy Grail").

All of these problems combined to not only cause us to refuse to suspend our disbelief, but to proudly and loudly refuse.

At least the DVD was in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible. The picture quality, or what you can see of it, is fine, as is the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

You do get some extras designed to make the ordeal less painful, but after hearing one of the main perpetrators opine about how this was the culmination of years of vision we couldn't take it anymore and shut it off lest our DVD player be stained permanently.

But I guess I have to mention the extras anyway, so here goes: a gallery of six featurettes ("Inside the Fountain: Death and Rebirth") and a trailer that should be condemned by champions of truth in advertising because it makes The Fountain look intriguing.

The Fountain, from Warner Home Entertainment
96 excruciating minutes, anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn
Produced by Eric Watson, Arnon Milchan, Iain Smith
Written by Darren Aronofsky, directed by Darren Aronofsky

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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