The Mountain – Jeff Goldblum as a Lobotomizer and Womanizer

The lugubrious pace, the well framed scenes, the casually exact sets and the gently unnerving storyline in “The Mountain” remind us of David Lynch’s influence. The Pacific Northwest setting and its towering pines certainly amplify the comparison. Likewise, appropriately anachronistic musical selections add to the echoes (who knew Perry Como could be so creepy). An obsession with ice rinks (and its denizens) adds to the equation.
Most of the colors are earth tones; I don’t recall seeing very much red, orange or blue other than occasionally in one of the many motel rooms.
Wally (Jeff Goldblum) travels from insane asylum to sanitorium, performing lobotomies in the mid 1950s. Into the eye sockets he drives his dual silver spikes, or are they nine inch nails? His credentials are uncertain, but Wally seems initially welcome by the administrators. He is also a womanizer. One of the exchanges in a roadhouse, at a pinball machine, brings a needed laugh when he asks:
“What are you drinking?”
“Shirley Temple. With a lot of rum in it.”
Wally enlists the services of Andy (Tye Sheridan), a younger man brought along ostensibly to photograph the patients. Andy’s mother was probably a patient of Wally, and his father just died…on an ice rink.
Andy spends most of the film observing and not reacting, so Sheridan’s thespian skills are put to a different kind of test. We want to empathize with him.
A vague and unsettling sexual undercurrent pervades the film.
Writer director Rick Alverson (born in Spokane) and co-writers Dustin Guy Defa and Colm O’Leary present a cast of fairly odd ducks.
Huge credit to cinematographer Lorenzo Hagerman; the look of the film is the most consistently satisfying element. Likewise, Jacqueline Abrahams deserves kudos for finding evocative rooms in which the scenes are shot (including one critical room with seemingly no door and only a window).
Goldblum is always wonderful to watch (whether on screen or leading the big band antics of his Mildred Snitzer Orchestra). Here he is far more understated.
Although “The Mountain” was well received at Sundance and other film festivals, it is unlikely to score at the box office more than an opening day’s worth of tickets sold to Goldblum’s last few appearances (“Jurassic Park” sequels).
But that is hardly the point of “The Mountain.” Indeed, each viewer will come away with their own point of view, and it will likely span the range from confused to ecstatic.

Trailer here.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.