Written & Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Release date: September 15, 2017
*** Note – no spoilers below for Mother!, but I also recommend that you DO NOT research the film or look it up on IMDb until after you see it. ***
With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, Darren Aronofsky brings you Mother! The film stars Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a married couple living and working out of a huge house in the middle of woods. He is a poet dealing with crippling writer’s block and she is working effortlessly to get the house in order. Soon they are visited by guests seemingly out of nowhere. A doctor arrives, followed by his wife and later their sons. Soon the whole house is full and while Bardem seems to revel in the attention and adulation, Lawrence grows quickly worried and fearful. And that’s pretty much all I can tell you about the plot of Mother! without spoiling anything. The plot is not what matters here. Instead, let me segue by telling you that about 100 minutes into this 2+ hour film, a man sitting way back in the theater threw a full soda at the screen, showering us as it flew by, before storming out with his female companion. Yep, Mother! is THAT kinda movie.
From his past works — some near-classics (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) and some bizarre misses (Noah, The Fountain) — it is clear that Aronofsky favors style often over substance. And Mother! is dripping with style. From the constant close ups to long tracking shots, this film is shot in a way that reminded me of the surrealism of Luis Bunuel and the beautiful, yet off-putting work of Nicolas Winding Refn. While the trailer gave away too much and screamed Rosemary’s Baby, the two films I kept thinking of as I watched were Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Refn’s The Neon Demon. And when both those films ended I uttered the same five words out loud: “What the F*** was that?!”
My friends are asking me if I “liked” the film, and honestly the answer is no. To “like” this film one would basically admit to being a total psychopath. This, I fully believe, was not made to be “liked,” but rather experienced. And Mother! was indeed an experience. Aronofsky definitely has things to say, and like I said earlier, he isn’t too subtle so I won’t get into messages and meaning here. Mother! felt like a beatnik horror movie, as if Aronofsky wrote the script stream-of-consciousness style on a drug binge. Coincidentally, according to IMDb, he wrote the script in 5 days.
While the sheer lunacy will be the focus of most reviews, something needs to be said for Jennifer Lawrence. At 27(!) she is already an Oscar winner and 4-time nominee. She deserves a fifth nomination here. She is asked to carry so much of the weight of this film and does so in a raw and somehow realistic fashion. Because Aronofsky places the camera so close to her, the audience inevitably feels like the film is happening to them. The uneasiness her character feels transmits through the screen. Bardem is great as well, but he takes a backseat to Lawrence. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer play the married couple who arrive and they are… “unique” in their performances. There is also a cameo that will have you scratching your head and probably asking, “Wait… was that _______?”
In the end, I have to recommend Mother! if for no other reason than the fact that [at the time of this writing] it ended 90 minutes ago, and my mind is burning from watching it. It needs to be experienced, if only one time. Some will love it and hold it as a work of arthouse horror to be studied for ages. And some will most certainly throw a full cup of soda at their screens.
This movie defies a star-rating, but definitely gets two thumbs up for evoking raw human emotions.
Dr. Zaius’s Initial Reactions: