One love story is told across three wildly different time periods as Tom (Hugh Jackman) tries to cure his wife Izzy (Rachel Weisz) of her life threatening disease. Told in the modern day, Elizabethan era and a space-set future time, the film is beautifully shot and lit, effects created using different liquids dispersing into one another to create timeless yet phenomenal scenes. The story strands flow into one another, as the modern day surgeon struggles for a cure, a historic conquistador seeks to discover the fountain of youth and the slap-headed space traveller floats inside a giant bubble talking to – and occasionally eating – a tree. If this all sounds a little too much for you, you’re not alone, as this is a polarising film that many dismissed for being just too odd. The modern day segments are the easiest to follow, with a straightforward narrative, relatable characters and situations requiring minimal explanation. Director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) alas does not have much of an eye for combat, with some of the past tense skirmishes coming across muddled and confusing, but otherwise this is a creative and visually stunning depiction of an otherwise done to death story.
DON’T DO DRUGS. There you go, just saved you an hour and three quarters. Except that’s just the thing, although this film can be summed up in just three little words, it’s still an exceptional piece, just thoroughly depressing and cautionary. Easily the reason I’ve never so much as even picked up a joint, this film should be mandatory viewing in schools and rehab centres the world over, with every step taken by the four leads taking them further down a spiral they really don’t want to see the end of. Firstly, there’s Jared Leto’s slacker Harry, living day-to-day by repeatedly stealing and selling his doting mother’s television with best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, surprisingly good) in order to buy drugs. Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) is a promising fashion designer, but occasionally must turn tricks when money runs low, and Harry’s mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn, Julia Roberts has your Oscar) lives alone, glued to her television, unable to deal with the direction her son has taken.
Has there ever been a character so seemingly written for a specific actor than Randy ‘the Ram’ Johnson, so perfect a fit for Mickey Rourke it’s impossible to imagine anyone else play him. Both were big in the 80s, Rourke at the peak of his game in Diner, 9 ½ Weeks and Barfly, Randy a top billing wrestler, but then saw their popularity wane and the roles dry up, before a comeback arrived, in the shape of Sin City for Rourke, as heavily scarred behemoth with a heart of goldie Marv, and a reunion battle with former nemesis the Ayatollah for the Ram. Rourke’s face, a battleground of botched plastic surgery and his four year stint of boxing in the early 90s looks like it’s been pummelled in the ring for years, and he nails every note of Ram’s trajectory, as a particularly brutal weapons match – in which a disabled spectator offers Randy his prosthetic leg to use as a club – causes the Ram to suffer a heart attack, and his wrestling days are over. Whilst struggling to adapt to a life without his one true love, he attempts to form a relationship with similarly aging, but still smoking at 45, stripper Cassidy (Oscar-winning Marisa Tomei) and reconnect with his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). The flinch levels are unexpectedly high for a character piece, with incidents involving a deli-counter meat slicer and a staple gun proving the most worthy of a glance away from the screen. Director Darren Aronofsky – more known for deeper, more obscure work like Pi, the Fountain and more recently Black Swan, employs great cinematography, shooting everything on location with no sets and as many long tracking shots as he can, but this is Rourke’s game through and through, and though he wasn’t robbed of the Oscar (Sean Penn’s Milk was more deserving , in my opinion), I hope he doesn’t throw everything away with support roles in entertaining but cringeworthy fare like the Expendables and Immortals. He needs some more layered, meaty roles, I’m just not sure anything will ever be such a good fit.