Movie Review : Mother! (2017)
This movie is trash. I have to be honest with you here: something happened to Darren Aronofsky between the excellent Black Swan and this, and it's not good. Maybe it's getting involved with that terrible Lou Reed & Metallica collaboration. Maybe it's the crushing weight or expectations or an inexplicable religious turn, I don't know. But Mother! isn't good. It's not misunderstood or impenetrable. It's a smug and detestable movie that a superstar cast cannot save from itself.
Mother! is the story of a nameless couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem). She's a homemaker and he's an artist who suffers from writer's block. Unwanted guests (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer and others, less important actors/characters) start showing up on their doorstep one day and inspiration suddenly comes back. The guests are thrashing the house and wreaking havoc, but he doesn't care. He can create again. Only she seems to understand and/or care about the inevitable destruction that lies ahead.
It's been said a million times by now: Mother! is a two hours long religious allegory. Javier Bardem's character is God, Jennifer Lawrence's is Mother Nature/Planet Earth and everyone else ranges from Bible characters to random human beings who enjoy wrecking the planet for their own entertainment. Sure, it's clever. But Mother! is devoid of everything aside from that elaborate allegory. Once you understand that - and it's not hard to understand, critics got it right away - the only thing left for the audience to do is admire the cleverness of the said allegory.
This is some kind of supreme filmmaking sin to me: don't think your audience is too stupid to figure you out.
Everything that was so tantalizing about this trailer is not in the movie: choppy, atonal music that keeps you on your toes? Completely absent. There's barely any soundtrack. A creepy, supernatural basement mystery? Overdone and easy to figure out. Terrifying strangers? They're freeloading assholes more than anything. Mother! doesn't even try to scare you, because it's too enamored with its own "purpose". Aside from the overarching allegory, this is just flat and lifeless storytelling. Everybody figured it out on week one. So, the movie doesn't have any surprise left for any new audiences.
So, halfway into Mother!, I decided to "heathenize" my view of the movie and block out Darren Aronofsky's forceful allegory. I started seeing Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence for who they really were: a famous writer and his wife, torn apart by the love of the adoring crowd. I say "heathenize" because celebrity is a form of secular worship that's way more popular than religion nowadays. The work of Javier Bardem having influenced so many people so deeply, it doesn't really belong to him anymore. Neither does his life. He has become a symbol for people that inspire him, so he starts living in a sick symbiosis with them, leaving his wife as a casualty of his desires.
Don't get me wrong, it's a meaning I 100% imposed on the movie, but it was less painful to watch that way.
Mother! is a movie that bet on the credibility of its actors to carry it to financial success, which failed. It barely made back half of its money in its short theater run. Because it's fucking terrible. Jennifer Lawrence's part basically consist of walking from room too room with a flabbergasted look on her face. She was dating Darren Aronofsky at the time and the movie was so bad, it lead to their breakup. I know it's being marketed as this edgy and controversial arthouse movie, but it's not. It's a self-indulgent and overblown bore.