I can’t tell you whether or not you should see “mother!” What I can do is point-out those who absolutely should not see director Darren Aronofsky’s controversial psychological thriller:
- People who live in old farmhouses out in the country
- Pregnant women
- Those who consider themselves to be very religious, especially Catholics
- And anyone who’s looking for a safe, fun time at the movies
“mother!” is a lot of things: twisted, vile and thought-provoking. The build-up to the film’s release was shrouded in mystery, with Paramount, the cast and even the trailers failing to divulge exactly what this movie is all about.
The set-up is simple: a married couple (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) live in a large house in the middle of nowhere. One evening, a mysterious man appears at their door. He says he’s been told it’s a B&B, and he needs a place to say. So the couple allows this stranger (played by Ed Harris) to spend the night. The next morning, his wife arrives (she’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer).
After getting to know them a little better, Bardem’s character (only referred to as “Him”) invites the older couple to say in their house for as long as they want. Lawrence’s character (only referred to as “mother”) isn’t happy with the idea. She senses something doesn’t feel right about this situation, and we can clearly sense it, too. And it doesn’t take long for all our suspicions to be proven correct.
Much of the set-up of “mother!” – which is basically the first two acts – feels very similar to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” from earlier this year: creepy people in a house and you know something’s just not right.
Aronofsky’s extreme use of extreme close-ups adds to this vibe. This may be the most in-your-face movie ever made. The camera rarely shies away from tight shots of everyone, including Lawrence. (Maybe this is how Aronofsky fell in love with her – the two have been dating for the past year). However, a couple key plot elements – that I think the “Black Swan” director intended to be mysterious and suspenseful, don’t work because they’re thin in substance yet very drawn-out.
Then comes the final act when, literally, all Hell breaks loose. While the one, long, agonizing sequence is well-crafted… it’s also absolutely insane. Aronofsky’s previous film was the Biblical epic “Noah”. The incredibly violent finale of “mother!” brings the film’s religious allegory aspect to a shocking head.
“mother!” is so ugly, whacked-out and disturbing that it’s impossible to call it “entertaining”. It’s sure to leave many who see it disgusted, and that may have been Aronofsky’s intention. But he tries way too hard to get us there.
As for J-Law, it’s a physically and emotionally strenuous role, and you can definitely appreciate her performance. But even she isn’t enough for me to recommend this overblown and overwrought piece of “experimental” filmmaking.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “mother!” gets a C.
Running Time: 121 min.