"Mother!" is directed by Darren Aronofsky and it stars Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence as a couple living a fairly peaceful life together in their secluded home. However, all of that changes when uninvited guests, starting with Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, begin to arrive at their home. This puts a strain on the couple, Jennifer Lawrence in particular and now we have ourselves a movie that sounds like a thriller and was marketed as a thriller, but it's not really a thriller at all.
Reviewing this movie is going to be difficult for quite a few reasons. One, it's already proven itself to be very divisive among the film community. The general consensus is that regular moviegoers will hate this film, whereas people who are deep into analyzing film-making as an art form will really enjoy, if not love this movie. No matter my thoughts on this movie, this review is sure to piss off some faction of people who have seen this movie.
It's also difficult to review this movie purely because of how poorly marketed it was. Go ahead and watch the trailer and you'll see that this movie looks like a horror/thriller about a couple's home being invaded by some strangers. That's not what this movie is, though. It's a slow burn and it's an arthouse film that will NOT appeal to mainstream moviegoers. We already saw what poor marketing can do to a film earlier this year with "It Comes at Night". That movie divided many people, but I personally really liked it despite it's marketing failures. It's just too bad that I can't say the same about "Mother!", especially seeing as how I usually love most of Aronofsky's work.
I will start off this review positively and praise the performances. Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence do work well together as a couple even though the circumstances in which they end up together aren't exactly normal, but that's played up in this movie. You see a struggling side of Bardem that makes his character empathetic, and Lawrence is also good in a role that mostly has her walking around and telling other people to stop doing stuff to her house, but it's still a good performance nonetheless. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are also suitably creepy and mysterious in their respective roles, thus displaying that the movie does benefit ever so slightly from solid performances across the board.
Well, now that we're done talking about the positives, let's get into why this movie doesn't work in my eyes. First and foremost, this movie is exactly why there are people in this world that genuinely despise arthouse films. That's ultimately my way of saying that this movie is - dare I say - pretentious. I really hate using that word to describe films because it makes me sound like a rich, snobby critic, sipping his champagne, smoking a pipe and watching all of his films in a mansion by the fireplace. I've only ever used that word to describe one other movie and it was back in 2015 when I saw the movie "Joy", another Jennifer Lawrence film ironically. And whenever I say that word, I really try my best to explain why I'm using it to describe a movie so that it doesn't sound like I'm just saying it for the sake of saying it, so here's why I think "Mother!" is pretentious.
Darren Aronofsky makes this movie not just full of metaphors, but one giant metaphor in and of itself. To say what it's symbolizing might be a spoiler, so I'll get into that eventually, but in keeping things vague, here's what needs to be known. This movie has a message, it has a theme, and it uses metaphors and allegories to convey these things, but at the same time, Aronofsky isn't really saying anything at all. I know that sounds weird, but like I already said, this is a difficult movie to review. To make a movie an allegory of something, you need some type of purpose to it, but Aronofsky doesn't seem to grasp that. Instead, it's almost like he's stroking himself to this being a slow burn that'll divide audiences. His mindset with this movie seemed to be "Why tell a unique story when I can just throw in a bunch of metaphors and symbolism that don't say anything unique? Look how artsy I'm being!"
There comes a point in this movie's third act when things start to get very graphic, unsettling, and downright disturbing. And the worst part is that it doesn't have a point. Once again, Aronofsky is just throwing in violent images for the sake of pretending to be deep and artsy with his style of film-making. There's even one violent image in this film that I don't think needed to be shown at all. It could've been hinted at, therefore making the movie a lot more subtle and nuanced, but nope. Aronofsky once again has to show us how edgy of a director he is with these graphic scenes.
OK, I really need to get into spoilers for this movie. Normally I'd do a completely separate article for a movie's spoilers, but I really don't want to waste anymore time talking about this movie, so here's its own little section of the review where I'm going to talk about spoilers.
People are going to interpret this movie differently, but here's how I interpreted it: The movie is basically a retelling of key parts in the Bible, specifically the Old Testament. You have Bardem playing God, Lawrence playing mother nature, and their house representing Earth. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are meant to serve as Adam and Eve (this is supported by Harris bearing a scar on his side, thus referring to Adam having a rib taken out of him to create Eve) and the movie's message is that of how humans are ruining the Earth. That's the basic gist of what this movie symbolizes, but the problem is that there's nothing new to any of it. The message of "humans are bad" has been done many times before, and this movie just beats us over the head with it, adding no subtlety or originality. And as far as retelling the Bible, it doesn't exactly break new ground. It's just using allegories and metaphors to tell us the story of the Bible and...that's it. There's no new spin on it, it's literally just the Bible being retold by means of self-indulgent symbolism. If I wanted to hear the story of stuff like Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, I'd just go in my closet, dig up a dusty copy of the Bible that hasn't been touched in years, and read it there.
Where the movie got really heavy-handed was the sequence in which Jennifer Lawrence's baby is killed. It's literally a newborn baby that gets its neck snapped by a crowd of people passing it around. And if that wasn't bad enough, the same crowd of people starts tearing the baby to pieces and eating it's body......no, I'm not kidding. This is the graphic content that shouldn't have even been shown at all in my opinion. This segment with the baby was obviously representing the story of Jesus Christ, but once again, it all comes down to Aronofsky not adding anything new to these allegories. It's just overly-dramatic symbolism that tries way too hard in being some deep thinking man's movie.
I really understood what Aronofsky was going for in this movie, I really did. He's emphasized that he's upset with the state of the world today and he's obviously passionate about addressing these issues, but dude, do it in a way that isn't self-indulgent, drawn out, and unoriginal. Don't give us these overly-violent images and faux-artsy metaphors to try and pass yourself off as some innovative arthouse film-maker who deserves to win a Palme d'Or.
Overall, "Mother!" is a movie that I disliked upon walking out of the theater last night, but given time to think about it for the past twenty-four hours, I honestly think that this movie genuinely just flat out sucks. It's exactly what general moviegoers think of when they hear the term "arthouse film". It's boring, pretentious, pointless, and in its attempt to say so much about the world, it says almost nothing. Sorry, Aronofsky, but every director is bound to have at least one bad film and this one appears to be yours.
Rating: Some Ol' Bullshit