By now you’ve heard all the hoopla surrounding Darren Aronofsky’s latest mind trip Mother!. The film stares Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer , and Ed Harris. With an all star cast Mother! had the prognosis to be well received. But with reviews like “worst film of the century”, “pretentious”and “vile” its evident that general audiences hated it. So why all the fuss? And why is this the most hated film in cinema?
The artwork released for Mother! Leaves much to be desired. The films imagery, created by James Jean, doesn’t tell you much. Jennifer Lawrence is seen holding her heart in one image, while in another Javier Bardem appears to be engulfed in flames but untouched by them. The trailer released, gave the impression of a typical thriller film; husband and wife and maybe another woman weird expressions and not much else. But what moviegoers got was something else entirely. J Law plays Mother. Javier plays Him. Once again we aren’t given their names until the credits, this seems to be a recurring theme in films as of late (see A Ghost Story). Mother and Him live in seclusion from society. Their own oasis away from the outside world. Him is a poet. Mother is, well, we don’t really know, on the surface she is a young wife who dotes on her husband. She also appears to be an interior decorator, and a very good one. The idyllic “paradise” she is creating is beautiful, like a page out of a Restoration Hardware catalog.
Mother! Is broken up into two parts. The first hour is filled with Biblical allegory, which viewers may or may not understand right away. Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris are the first man and woman who enter the home. Soon followed by their two bickering sons. Their sons are introduced after Michelle and Ed break the house rule by entering into the forbidden room which causes them to be banished from the house; their sons may be a form of Cain and Abel. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem have a well acted disconnect. One minute he’s loving her calling her his “Goddess” the next he’s withholding information and making decisions without her. A recurring theme of the film is Mother’s ability to feel. She feels the heartbeat of the house throughout the film. Mother never leaves the house, she is its core, it seems Mother only exists because of this house.
The second act starts off better than the first act. We see that Mother and Him seem to be on better terms, they are expecting a baby which helps Him to write his “masterpiece”, ending the writers block that plagued him in act one. Without giving anymore away, although it starts out ok, act two is uncomfortable to watch. Towards the end of the film, Mother! becomes a painting of chaos filled with disturbing images of various forms of violence including: idolatry, rituals, mass executions, riots, martial law. Which is probably a major reason why so many hated this film. There are numerous reviews stating the biblical references and this is basically Aronofsky’s depiction of the fall of man. So with that understanding why is this film panned so heavily?
The images that are shown in the second half, are Aronofsky’s metaphorical mirror reflecting modern day society. All of what is shown has been seen at one time on the news. General audiences aren’t receptive to the idea of terror and destruction happening because it crumbles the idyllic state of being everyone is in. If you see terror on tv you have the choice to change the channel or turn it off. People go to the cinema for differing reasons, but usually it’s to escape their own problems. However, with Mother! Aronosky is throwing everything at you. Airing this to a wider audience was risky, especially because theaters are filled with heroic movies where the good guy or girl always wins. In this film, the good girl, being Jennifer Lawrence, does not win and that can be a bit problematic.
Is Mother! a masterpiece? No,but it’s also not the worst movie ever. It seems anytime a work of art pushes you to think abstractly or becomes reflective it is dubbed “pretentious”. The irony of it all is that, with the numerous remakes and endless sequels, people often complain about the lack of creativity at the box office. However, when a film, such as this one, forces you to view another narrative audiences immediately pan it. It would seem that no matter what filmmakers do it’s not enough. And never will be, because as Javier Bardem’s character so callously put it, “It’ll never be enough, this is why we keep creating.”
What did you think of Mother!?
Is it a masterpiece or a mess?