Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sundance with Abe: The Mountain

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the sixth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

The Mountain
Directed by Rick Alverson

There exists a consensus that many medical practices that were once normal are archaic and even barbaric in nature. Technological advancements help to create new processes that can skip steps and, in many cases, help people ensure good health and prevent diseases long before they become life-threatening. Many conditions and disorders that were thought to be abhorrent or indicative of an inability to function in the world have now been reclassified, and trips back in time to see the prevalence of things done to essentially put people out of their misery feel especially troubling because of the wasted potential in a purposely limited and artificially diminished life.

Andy (Tye Sheridan) is a quiet teenager in the 1950s who works as a Zamboni driver. His father’s sudden death and his mother’s institutionalization leave him alone and directionless, prompting him to accept the offer of Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum) to accompany him on his cross-country tour of mental hospitals, photographing the subjects of the lobotomies he performs. As Dr. Fiennes finds that his services are no longer as in demand, Andy begins to see the world through a different lens, constantly meeting people who, moments later, are no longer the same, reflecting his own slow disconnection from reality.

This is a film that starts out from an interesting point, as Dr. Fiennes sees a quiet, obedient assistant in Andy and wants to bring him along for a chance to see things from his perspective. As it progresses, however, it becomes more and more embroiled in the almost unfeeling gaze that Andy casts upon everyone and everything he photographs, making for an eerie and uninviting experience. It might seem worth it if the film’s plot or themes were powerful on their own, but this just feels like the descent of a lonely person into the irresponsible care of a man who believes that problems can be made “innocuous,” a word he slowly spells for Andy early on in the film as he types up one of his reports.

Sheridan, who made his mainstream breakthrough this past year with “Ready Player One,” is no stranger to Sundance, appearing previously in films like “Mud” and “The Yellow Birds.” This performance, unfortunately, is most similar to the one he delivered in South by Southwest entry “Friday’s Child,” though it’s considerably less engaging, as if Sheridan was told merely to stare at the camera whenever he wasn’t saying any one of his five lines. Goldblum, as always, is magnetic, but his twisted charisma can’t save this film that values its visual arts more than it does a need to tell a cohesive, even moderately involving story.


No comments: