I’m a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky’s body of work. PI and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM did more than show an early filmmaker’s promise; these films announced the arrival of not just a new movie director, but a new artist with a specific voice and style. His later films, including THE WRESTLER and BLACK SWAN followed through on this earlier calling card and established Aronofsky as major auteur. Having said that, when my boyfriend and I left the theater after seeing Aronofky’s latest film, MOTHER!, we both looked at each other and declared this being one of the worst films we’ve ever seen.
MOTHER! stars Jennifer Lawrence as a young, soft-spoken bride whose main focus is to rehab the house she shares with her poet husband, played by Javier Bardem. The two are sharing a peaceful, yet isolated existence until a stranger, played by Ed Harris, arrives unexpectedly at their front door. His arrival, and later the arrival of the rest of his family, throws the couple’s home life out of balance before strange events begin to occur. At this point, saying anything else would venture into spoiler territory so I’ll stop with the plot here.
From the opening scene you know you’re not dealing with a movie where the events are as they seem. Like most of Aronofsky’s past work, MOTHER! appears to be about the mental breakdown and isolation the protagonist feels and what seems like a unique scene or line of dialogue is actually a metaphor that reveals what the story itself is actually about. Trying to read between the lines ultimately weighed down the power the film was on a quest to deliver. The manic drive of the movie is ultimately saved by the strong and bold performances of Lawrence and Bardem. Michelle Pfiffer’s performance is brilliantly captivating as her character makes you squirm in your seat even if you have a smile on your face the entire time. Ed Harris’ performance is just as squirm-inducing as you can never truly tell where his intentions lay. Much has been written about the films’ third act, which is justified as this is where shit really hits the fan for the couple. Again, I won’t spoil what happens, but this act will either make you love the film or hate the film. I’m still trying to figure out where I am with this, but I do think this part of the film could have been trimmed by about 10 minutes.
MOTHER! is a hard film to review because so much about the movie is symbolism. I drew my own conclusions, but I don’t want to project those onto you. I read an article where Lawrence stated her interpretations of the symbols. They differed from mine but not by much. One thing is for sure- once you see MOTHER! you won’t ever forget. Like most strong works of art this one sticks with you for a long time. This movie is either a terrible work of art or a bold stroke of genius. I really don’t quite know where I stand yet.