Monday, June 24, 2019


A lot of early reviews compared The Mountain to The Master. I guess that makes sense on a very surface level. While I prefer something like The Mountain over The Master, both movies are loose adaptations about real people (and their controversial work) who take aimless younger protegees under their wing. They're also a look at the darker side of Americana.

There’s even a few visual similarities...

The Master / The Mountain

The biggest difference between The Master & The Mountain is that Paul Thomas Anderson made a film that he wanted people to enjoy somewhat. Not completely but somewhat. The Mountain is a cold, sparse, sometimes prickly, uncomfortable & intentionally aimless film. And I loved every bit of it. Really. I feel like the average filmmaker would hate their movie being described as such (especially right out of the gate in the opening lines of a review), but something tells me that’s part of what Rick Alverson was going for. I genuinely don’t think he cares if someone “enjoyed” one of his movies. Sorry to sound so pretentious but that’s just how I see it. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy elements about his latest movie. The framing of certain scenes, the score and overall visual style are all things that could be enjoyed & appreciated. Even the randomness & unpredictability of co-Star Denis Lavant’s performance are sure to make some folks chuckle. But from a subject matter standpoint - not many people are going to enjoy a movie that’s partially about the lobotomy. Take me for example. While this is one of my favorite movies of the year so far, this isn’t something I’d want to watch again the next day. I certainly want to watch it again but I’m not in a rush.

The Mountain isn’t exactly something you just stumble upon either. I think most folks will have an idea of what they re getting in to. Sure it stars Jeff Goldblum (the biggest/most recognizable “star” Alverson has worked with so far) which could bring about a few random strays, but Rick Alverson’s work does have to be sought out intentionally. No one just randomly watches New Jerusalem or The Builder. I mentioned those two films instead of his more popular/recognizable movies (The Comedy & Entertainment) because The Mountain has the same soul as Alverson’s first two features in my opinion. Minimal dialogue, extreme loneliness and a less colorful palette. The Mountain still shares some similarities with Alverson’s last two movies (everything he does has lonely characters in an existential crisis on the verge some kind of a breakdown). But no one talks about The Builder or New Jerusalem. And I get it. Those aren’t the easiest movies to see/stream in comparisons to Alverson's recent work, but it’s also not the most difficult task either. Now that Rick Alverson is on feature film #5 (with an additional handful of music videos and experimental films), perhaps it’s a good time to check out his early filmography because you can see the seeds of his latest feature in the DNA of his earlier/lesser known works.

The Mountain is an exclusive movie with a specific audience in mind for a few reasons. The first being its tone & ambiance that I described at the start of this review. This is a truly cold & uncomfortable film. The other reason this is an exclusive film for a specific audience is how it shows/"handles" mental illness. It's bound to frustrate a few folks or bring about debate at the very least. I absolutely hate how much mental illness is slowly becoming a funny meme or a YouTube video. If you’re on social media as much as I am then you know how often people post about their breakdowns, suicide attempts & depression like it’s a cute joke. I didn’t get that vibe from The Mountain at all. Mental fragility isn’t a gif. There isn’t much joy in Alverson’s work so I appreciate that he’s the one to convey this. It still wouldn’t surprise me if film twitter turned a gif from this movie in to a joke about mental illness down the road (I don’t think it can be argued that there is a quirky tone throughout the course of the film).

While The Mountain falls in line with every movie Alverson has done, this is still his first time tackling real subject matter. I guess one could make a case that Entertainment is semi-autobiographical but Walter Freeman (the character Jeff Goldblum loosely portrays) is an historical figure. In the film, Dr Wallace Fiennes (Goldblum) hires a recently bereaved Zamboni driver; “Andy” (Tye Sheridan) to travel with him as a photographer for his lobotomy procedures (we learn early on that Fiennes has a history with Andy’s family).

I’m really not going to argue that all the stuff I like about this movie could be seen as something negative. It's an acquired taste. If someone were to say they didn’t like this movie I’m not going to go “WAIT, WHAT?!?!”
So while this certainly doesn’t have the same type of energy & dark humor as The Comedy Or Entertainment (and it should be approached with caution), this is one of my personal favorite films of the year so far. Hopefully most of you reading this are familiar with my blog/taste and know what you’re getting in to.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...