Darren Aronofsky brings us Mother! – a psychological arthouse drama (comedy?) starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Lee and Kathryn review.
Perhaps the most verifiable statement made in Mother! is its fascination with circular storytelling, and its relating of that to the creation business; both are fallacies, imperfect offerings for humanity to pray, each promising a particular slice of perfection that can never truly be achieved. That unobtainable divine mocks us and yet we strive on regardless, and why? Well, what else are we supposed to do? At least we can laugh about it, prompts Aronofsky.
Mother! is that particular brand of arthouse that leaves its objects vague and undefined while its intentions straightforward and translatable, both of which are good things to the right audience member. Slotting interchangeable ideas into the roles played wonderfully by Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and a rustic magic house will make for fun mid-to-high-brow discussions, if all parties are willing – you just have to find the right parties.
Yet that’s not to brush aside flaws even outside of taste for storytelling; for example, that aforementioned circular story. The hint is there: Javier Bardem is older than his muse, so we can assume time still ticks while the house renews itself. But does the creation process and the framework that houses it really start again? Shouldn’t the house look a little more tattered next time? Should the bed be in the same room? That connection of imperfect people and perfect ideas is a fun one, but is it a definable relationship within that circle?
That and some aesthetic choices: the genders work for this very particular story, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t leaning hard on some metaphorical stereotypes to make them work. Teasing mini-fires throughout is exactly that: teasing, and it’s doubtful anyone will find it more than distracting. And it’s unclear what the camerawork is supposed to convey beyond a focussed experience from the shoulder of the house’s ward; it’s not a bad thing, just not one that can keep up with the width of the narrative features.
But what really works, given the aptitude of the viewer: the comedy. Mother! is inherently a funny movie; one with a wicked taste for the melodrama of Kafkaesque absurdism, and even if the metaphors lose you along the way, you can still laugh at the visual nonsense you’re being fed. It takes a while to get going – probably too long, admittedly – but from the halfway-mark it really amps up the chaos for a rollicking good time as you are left to revel in the misery of it all.
Yet it stays true to the metaphorical intention: why do creators put themselves through all this? Especially with that ever-elusive satisfaction simply requiring patience to mature? The truth is we’re impatient, and cruel, and flawed, and we like it that way because we’re impatient, cruel and flawed. We crave distractions more than a legacy; we crave life more than life past our own, and why shouldn’t we? Even if we do harbour and nourish that legacy, will the masses guarantee its safety regardless? Not bloody likely.
With a flavour spanning religious texts and maternal hallmarks, Mother! will assuredly turn the people off – what’s funny is Aronofsky couldn’t be more aware of the failure inherent within this film. It’s that exact failure that makes it so damn funny – fuck your circles, what makes circles so great anyway? After Harper Lee, our last vestibule for legacy, fell at the final hurdle, we can only make what we can make and burn what we can burn. It’s not perfect, but what is?
As Jennifer Lawrence screamed “WHAT IS HAPPENING?” halfway through Mother!, it perfectly encapsulated how I felt watching this film.
Darren Aronofsky presents the “most hated” film of the year. I definitely agree that you will love or hate it – you’ll either be drawn in by all the hidden meanings and symbolism or completely put off by the bullshit of it all. Going into this film only seeing the trailer I thought it was going to be a Rosemary’s Baby type of horror film and was sorely mistaken.
Javier Bardem plays “Him”, a twattier version of his character from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Jennifer Lawrence is “Mother”, his young muse, decorator and doormat. To be honest I can’t even talk about the plot because it’s not particularly coherent nor is it really important. Rather it can be split into three separate acts with each one upping the ante. There are elements of horror, thriller and black comedy in each of them but mashing all these genres together doesn’t work. In fairness and to say something positive, the first act worked well as a slow burning horror movie and pulled me in but the final act lost my interest.
The final act just had too much thrown into it; there was far too much going on at once which just made it even more apparent that Aronofsky was given a big budget to do whatever the fuck he wanted to do and that he did. I do understand it was meant to be an allegory for creation and how everything comes full circle but why? It just all felt a little self-indulgent and pretentious to me.
It’s not provocative, scary or thought-provoking; just a hot mess. I didn’t know if I liked or disliked it at first but the more I thought about it the more I disliked it. To be fair, it is very original but that doesn’t make it good. I won’t be re-watching but I’d recommend it if you enjoy being melted for two hours.