H ere is Darren Aronofsky’s latest and -some might call- most valiant attempt to prove how out-of-touch he is with the common man. Mother! is a film which I could spoil start-to-finish (I won’t), but I could spoil start-to-finish even adding in personal commentary and speculation as to meaning; in fact, I could hold a panel discussion on the film in real time moderated by the ghost of the late Roger Ebert and you would still emerge from this film saying, “WTF?!” Try as I might, my words will never do this film justice.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a film that was entirely allegorical since Captain Underpants. It is fairly clear, however, from the minute two moment where Jennifer Lawrence throws open the front door to reveal not a single sign of civilization that a deeper truth exists in this film. What is that deeper truth? I’m not telling, which is to say, “I have a guess, but it’s probably wrong.”

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem live alone in a large and fairly empty house. Their lives don’t seem to be anchored to time or place. It looks as if their impressive domicile sprouted of its own accord from the earth. That might not be an unreasonable guess – we’re told several times the home had burned down to the ground and yet Jennifer claims restoration. Is her claim metaphorical or did she really transform skeletal embers in every room to a small mansion capable of hosting an elaborate dinner party?

Did I mention that neither Lawrence nor Bardem is named in the film? Yeah, thanks Darren; that’s a wonderful layer of mystery. Your lack-of-naming gambit has paid dividends. Thing is, I still gotta write a review; you’re not making this easy. Jennifer feels the wall; there’s a heartbeat. Is the house alive? Another mystery. Later, a stranded (stranded from what?) doctor (Ed Harris) comes over thinking he’s made air bnb reservations. Bardem is a writer; Ed’s a fan. Bardem enjoys the adoration and writer’s block relief to the extent he ignores his wife’s introverted plea for a quick visit. In the morning, Ed’s wife Michelle Pfeiffer shows up. Why?  Where has she been? She plays nice for at least five seconds, and then behaves towards Jennifer Lawrence as a territorial housecat might. Shortly after that, two will-fighting sons of Ed and Michelle invade the household to “heir” their grievances.  Why?  Lost yet? I have not yet begun to confuse.

Mother! is classic Aronofsky: the consistent melding of real and surreal elements weaving a tapestry of question marks, within each layer both clarity and obfuscation, brilliance and idiocy, reasonable and ridiculous, satisfying and disappointing. A Darren Aronofsky film generally feels like a giant in-joke being played on the audience. I daresay I have generally rated these films by how much I thought I got the joke, which, admittedly, is a terrible way of rating films. Hence, while I gave Mother! three stars, this is the least defensible three star rating I’ve ever given; you want to rail and rant and call this the stupidest piece of trash you’ve seen since the last Aronofsky film? Here’s a pen; go for it. One way or another, this is definitely a film you talk about if for no other reason than to confirm, “Did you see what I saw?” And in that light, I say “Mother!” is a fantastic title if your film has just given birth to Pretension.

♪Mother! Just killed a fan
Dragged projector to his ‘stead
Hit the “ON/OFF,” now he’s dead
Mother! It had just begun
Took good will and thrown it all away

Mother! Ooh (anyway, this film blows)
Didn’t mean to make him die
A little pain is all that was required
Carry on, carry on, as if feedback does not matter♫

Rated R, 121 Minutes
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Prepare to be confused
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Volume movie consumers … but even then
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: People who have not seen at least 1,000 films in their lifetimes

♪ Parody Inspired by “Bohemian Rhapsody”

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