The Mountain is a slowly paced drama set in the world of lobotomies with leading performances from Tye Sheridan and Jeff Goldblum.
Welcome to the 1950s where Andy (Tye Sheridan) now lives in his father’s shadow. His mom has already been confined to an institution by the time we meet him. Enter Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum) into the picture. He takes Andy under his wing as a photographer while touring an asylum. You see, Dr. Fiennes is an advocate for the lobotomy. The procedure, both now and then, is rather controversial. One of the Kennedy children received one in the early 1940s and it was considered to be a failure. Okay, enough history lesson while I move on…
Something happens to Andy while working for the doctor. Dr. Fiennes sees both his career and life fall completely apart. Soon, Andy finds himself relating to the patients. One of them in particular: Susan (Hannah Gross). He meets her during a trip to California. Susan’s father just happens to be French healer in an area of the country where the New Wave movement is becoming popular. Susan’s dad wants Dr. Fiennes to operate this procedure on Susan. But before Dr. Fiennes can operate on her, Andy ends up having sex with her. Seeing Dr. Fiennes’ reaction when he walks in on them is quite priceless. The camerawork and reactions are quite intricate to say the least.
As a filmmaker, Rick Alverson gets a much different performance out of Jeff Goldblum than we’re used to seeing. No, this isn’t the familiar Dr. Ian Malcolm that we know from the Jurassic Park films. It’s a very different Goldbum altogether. I’ll let you in on a secret. During Sundance, I had to choose between Jeff Goldblum and Dwayne Johnson. I chose the latter. After viewing the film, I would make the same decision all over again. Anyway, both Goldblum and Sheridan are given the leeway to draw on their abilities in a way that benefits the film. To the die-hard Goldblum fans out there, this film may or may not be for you.
Alverson refers to The Mountain as being an anti-utopian film. This is an angle that can certainly be argued. He presents this image of the 1950s that brings about a different narrative on screen. Meanwhile, there’s this use of the lobotomy that–upon looking at it in another layer–seeks to serve as a reminder of what is happening in the film industry. Studio blockbusters eat up all of our attention while the indie films more often than not have to wage a battle for our attention. Insert Disney rant here.
The decision to shoot in a 4:3 ratio makes for an interesting choice. This choice definitely works for a film set in the 1950s. Shooting in black and white would have also been appropriate, too.
The Mountain is not going to be for everyone but the film examines an older time through another lens.
DIRECTOR: Rick Alverson
SCREENWRITER: Rick Alverson, Dustin Guy Defa, Colm O’Leary
CAST: Tye Sheridan, Denis Lavant, Udo Kier, Hannah Gross, and Jeff Goldblum