Darren Aronofsky certainly means well, give him that much. Unlike M. Night Shyamalan, who flings out his silly scenarios and demands that we accept them as spiritual, Aronofsky has thus far redeemed his inner ridiculousness with an intellectual’s curiosity about systems and symbols (Pi) and an attraction to life’s darker ironies (Requiem for a Dream).
So it’s deeply unfortunate that Aronofsky’s latest, a millennium-spanning epic about an ill-fated romance, most resembles a season-ending episode of General Hospital. That is, of course, when it’s not resembling the cover of a Yes album or a Frank Frazetta muscle-porn fantasy. Hugh Jackman plays brilliant, driven surgeon to Rachel Weisz’s gorgeous, suffering wife; he struggles to find a cure for her brain tumor while their cello-scored cryfest is alternately reconfigured as a conquistadorial quest for the Fountain of Youth (also starring Jackman and Weisz) and a far-flung future in which bald yoga devotees get to float in outer space with trees.
Clearly the auteur is Learning to Let Go. And when such individuals are allowed to make multimillion-dollar movies with their Oscar-winning girlfriends, you have to wonder if a certain part of the entertainment equation gets left behind. Cinema’s grandest metaphysical inquiries—films like 2001 and Solaris—don’t require a box of tissues, just an open mind. (Now playing; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf