NOAH (2014, Darren Aronofsky)
When I was done watching REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, I had to sit in my theater seat for a few extra minutes to gather myself, wipe the tears and snot from my sobbing, wrecked face, and muster the strength to stumble home so I could curl up in bed and wait for the world to end. What I didn’t do was read the book upon which it was based — by Hubert Selby, Jr., who has a cameo in the movie and co-wrote the script with Aronofsky. I was too afraid the book would be even more depressing. But when I got home from NOAH, not sad at all, I looked up the source material and read it for the first time (it’s just a few pages out of Genesis in “The Bible”). What I was surprised to learn from reading was that Aronofsky actually was adding all the saddest shit himself.
First of all, God is not nearly as big a dickwad in the book as he is in the movie. In the book, all he does is tell Noah to build the ark and scoop up his family and every animal (did you know there was supposed to be seven pairs of the nice animals and only one pair of the mean animals? There’s a detail I never knew), then wait out the flood and start re-populating the planet with some epic incest. But what Aronofsky has added to this just makes God out to be a teasing, sadistic wanker with a dictatorial streak of power-hungry spitefulness in him. (At one point, Noah’s rock-monster friends — did I mention there were rock monsters played by Nick Nolte and Tio Salamanca from Breaking Bad? — say that “whenever we disobeyed The Creator, he punished us”). Instead of all three of Noah’s sons getting wives like in the book, Aronofsky only gives one son a wife (his adopted sister — not technically incest!) and only lets a second son flirt with the possibility of a wife before God jams her leg into a bear trap.
So what does this all mean? It adds into Aronofsky’s fairly dark world view over the last 15 years in which humans struggle and cry but almost always endure. While the first half of this film is slow and plodding (I wasn’t much into the rock monsters or the LORD OF THE RINGS-style battles, as adequately done as they were), the second half is kind of a grower — it places the weight of Noah’s moral choice on the viewer’s shoulders and makes us think long after the film is over. And once again, Aronofsky gets some terrific performances; this time he lets Emma Watson go to town with a disturbing subplot about being pregnant and having her child threatened with homicide from her dad. I haven’t seen Watson much on screen (just small roles in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, THIS IS THE END, and THE BLING RING) but she is dynamite in this.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a good performance from Ray Winstone, who plays a cartoonish villain (the kind who pauses to shout ridiculous one-liners before charging with a knife) in another subplot that almost ruins the film. And while Matthew Libatique’s reliably great photography and Clint Mansell’s typically heavy score steer the tone in a serious direction, Aronofsky’s script refuses to lighten up the proceedings with any sense of humor. Noah is re-populating the planet with a bunch of white people that aren’t funny. I don’t know if I like what that world is going to be. The only cool people here are the animals, who get drugged once they’re on the ark so they sleep through the flood, but then are nice enough not to eat each other when they all wake up and get off onto land.