Cast: Tye Sheridan, Jeff Goldblum, Denis Lavant, Hannah Gross
Director: Rick Alverson
I’m not super familiar with any of Alverson’s other movies, but after doing some research on them after watching this movie, I learned he tends to stray away from the three act story structure and tend to be movies that are aggressive and confrontational. I definitely see that in The Mountain, as the narrative is bonkers and there are characters are truly some of the most despicable people you will watch all year. Carried by a sickening performance by Goldblum, The Mountain shows us an era where medicine wasn’t as benevolent as it should be and the steps people will take to pursue power regardless of the industry they’re in.
The film follows Andy (Sheridan), a young man who works at an ice rink with his father after his mother is taken into medical custody and lobotomized. After his father passes away, Andy accompanies Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Goldblum), the doctor responsible for his mother’s lobotomy, on trips where he documents Fiennes’ life and medical procedures. What Andy discovers shapes the way he sees Fiennes and realizes that he may not be as caring as he thinks he is. As a confrontational character, Goldblum’s performance had me absolutely seething with anger and this was the intention of the way the character was written. As a mainstream actor, Goldblum’s career has been built on player lighter and funnier characters in movies that obliterate box office numbers. Seeing him switch things up and be the antagonist of an independent movie is a shock, but it works given the environment the film creates. There’s a certain level of cold arrogance that exists within Fiennes throughout the movie making him impossible to like, but as an antagonist this is such a valuable trait to have and something that Goldblum does incredibly well in this performance. From a story perspective, the movie does become relatively hard to follow and hard to understand exactly what is going on. Andy’s motivations seem to vary drastically depending on what’s happening and most of his development feels forced compared to his reality. The introduction of minor characters only makes sense in certain contexts, but there are characters that are supposed to represent greater ideas that ultimately fall flat. I’m still not exactly sure what the point of this movie is since there doesn’t seem to be a central thesis behind Andy’s development. If the purpose is to show us lobotomizing patients is a horrible procedure and should never be done, congratulations, no one performs lobotomies anymore. If this movie had focused more on the dynamic between Andy and Dr. Fiennes, I think there’s a very legitimate chance you can make a strong, low-budget movie. Instead, Sheridan and Goldblum are left on an island to fend for themselves and the reason this movie works in even the slightest capacity is because of their performances. Whether this is a shy, quiet performance by Sheridan or a more calculated and cunning job from Goldblum, The Mountain had the potential to do something special with a small budget, but falls short due to a bizarre story.
Overall, The Mountain is an average indie movie that has a foundation to be something more than what we ended up with. Sheridan is a budding star in the industry and having Goldblum in your cast is absolutely a bonus, but they won’t overcome a story that seems out to defeat itself from the beginning. I don’t know what either of them have planned next, but hopefully it’s an upgrade for what we got here. Alverson has an audience out there for films like The Mountain, but I guess I’m not a member of that audience.
Overall Score: 5/10