Director: Darren Aronofsky
In the midst of an entertainment culture that’s never seem more focused on guaranteeing excellence – from TV box sets and Josh Weedon helmed reboots – its a pleasure , certainly occasional, perhaps guilty, to focus on a complete howler. Darren Aronofsky, of Pi and Requiem for A Dream, managed to blow 35 million dollars on what appears to be an extended vanity project for then squeeze Rachel Weitz. The film is equivalent to those model portfolio shoots you can do at High Streeet photographers, or the Friday video. All involved, Aronofsky, Weitz and Hugh Jackman – should know way better.
We lay our scene in fifteenth-century South America, where Hugh Jackman plays a conquistador who is in search of the Tree of Life on the behest of the beautiful Queen of Spain – Weitz. No, in fact its the far future, where lotus-position astral voyager Jackman is steering a bonsai tree bubble spaceship into a distant nebula haunted by memories of his dead wife Weitz . Oh wait, in fact we’re really in the present day where Jackman is a brilliant cancer surgeon whose beautiful wife – Weitz in full pixie waif mode – is dying of cancer. The irony! Ellen Burstyn is chastising him for focusing on unorthodox primate research that could – perhaps – cure death itself, instead of, well, acting like a responsible doctor.
The astral voyager is haunted by memories of his dead wife – Weitz – but consoles himself with nibbling bits of bark from the tree that appears to power the bubbleship and perhaps be his dead wife. Who collapses winsomely just as – oh the irony – a lab assistant bursts in with the news that the test monkeys tumour is shrinking. Just before she pops her clogs – despite hold-me-back chest thumping resuscitation action from Jackman – she reveals she’s been writing a novel about…a conquistador in search of eternal life. Only it’s not got an ending see. So present day Jackman has to sit down and write it.
I could go on….but honestly. The whole thing is stuffed with a complete humourless self-mportance that perhaps bad film does better than any other art form. Only perhaps the massive DOA musical can lead to so much guiltily enjoyable head-scratching of the ‘What Were they thinking variety’ – Carrie the musical, A Clockwork Orange with music by U2, and so on. The film would like you to say that its beautifully shot and the editing is daring and thought-provoking. In fact its suffocated by striving for a deeply naff ‘beauty’ that brings to mind the Gold Blend ads of the eighties. The jump cuts that energised Requiem for a Dream are trite and annoying – oh she’s looking at the stars in 2005 that he’s flying towards in 100005 and so on.
The music, composed by ever-reliable ex-Poppy Clint Mansell with inter alia Mogwai contributions, is perhaps the best thing about it, but can’t help but reinforce the sense of everything straining to bring forth an almighty stinker. Studio cuts – no – mean its a lean 90 mins and I would say if you’re ever jaded about the latest Netflix/Prime/BBC masterwork, just spend some quality time in a bubbleship with Jackman and dead Weitz.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Story-within-story movies, it reminds me a lot of Cloud Atlas – and I’m guessing the Wachowskis are not a billion miles away from this.