Mother! [Review by SpecialK]
Here’s what you’ll hear about Mother! People will say it’s brave. Brilliant. Unlike any film ever made. They will smile, shrug, and say it’s “an Aronofsky.” You’ll hear how it pushes audiences beyond what they can handle. It’s blasphemous. Offensive.
With descriptions like that, the buzz alone will draw people to the theaters by night and have coworkers getting in fistfights over it at the water cooler by day.
You wanna know the truth? It’s a bore. It’s the ultimate in unabashed narcissism at every level, and I cringe to think that even writing this review will contribute to the putrid cloud of commentary that surrounds this film, puffing up writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s insufferable ego (and box office ticket sales) even further. But for you, dear horror readers, I’ll take that risk to make sure you stay far, far away from this waste of talent.
How is it so self-absorbed? Let’s break it down. Level one: the story. Jennifer Lawrence and her husband Javier Bardem live in a house. (Yes, I’m intentionally refusing to use the wretchedly obnoxious titles the characters are burdened with in the actual cast list). He’s a poet. She’s—his wife. Some people show up and refuse to leave. She’s annoyed by it and tries to give them the boot by politely pleading with Bordem. Sorry, Bardem. He doesn’t see any cause for alarm, and basks in the attention the guests shower upon him as their favorite writer. The film escalates, Lawrence’s sacrifices mount, and—without even trying to hold back on any spoilers here—that’s it. Really.
Is it an allegory of all sorts of religious texts? Sure. You can read about that elsewhere, but if a religious message was what they were going for, the film pounded out the themes with the delicacy of a toddler playing the piano, and offered about as much as can be expected from a drama student trying to “push the boundaries of the art” with his first script. The themes aren’t new or creative, they don’t challenge anything, and they beg no deep philosophical questions. Some people say the movie is disrespectful or offensive—anti-Christian “torture porn” even. Really guys? Look, this lifelong Catholic is no more offended by this film than I am by a joke that begins with “two priests walk into a bar.” Read the actual text of the Bible for racier, more irreverent content, I say.
Is it a symbol of man’s incessant consumption and his ignorance of the cries of Mother Earth? Yes, sure. And what An Inconvenient Truth it is. Save yourself some frustration and see that film instead.
Is it a metaphor for the way men chew up and spit women out before moving onto the next? Yawn. If you empathize with J-Law’s performance as the ever-giving ever-pleasing woman in this film, grab a glass of pinot with your girlfriends while the hubby is at work and the kiddos are with the nanny and talk to them about it, because I’m really over it. Read my thoughts on exactly why in XX. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Now level two: the acting. Unfortunately, my respect for each of the highly-paid actors in this film has now dipped quite significantly. In the press, J-Law talks about how her character was so different from her own self that she was worried people would think she was miscast. No need to worry Jen, the fact that you actually started dating Aronofsky during the making of this film instead of throwing the script in the trash after you read it has me drawing all sorts of parallels between your wide-eyed character and the way you flutter your lashes at Aronofsky in press interviews. It’s just as believable (and predictable) as it is emetic. I scoff to think I used to place you in the same category as Gal Gadot, a true Wonder Woman. Disappointing.
Plus, I can now picture Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer (Catwoman, what happened!), and Bardem reading the script and thinking of how “brave” this “Aronofsky film” will be regardless of what they could articulate about the film’s actual meaning themselves. Let’s put it this way, guys: a controversy-seeking film with top-notch costars and punctuation in its title does not an Oscar-winner make or a career save. And I just have to say it—Kristen Wiig? You’re killing me.
And finally, level three: the filmmaker. I’ve veiled my contempt for master narcissist Aronofsky’s approach to this film about as well as he’s disguised his self-conceit by creating it. Given the success of his prior controversial films, it’s as if he set out to push all the “cultural buttons” but forgot that he left the machine unplugged. Tight closeups on J-Law throughout the entire film offer the audience an intimate first-person perspective, but so does my niece experimenting with FaceTime. Yes, he palpably builds tension, discomfort, and even disgust as the far-too-long film progresses, but so does the flu. Where Black Swan was breathtaking and toyed with dark themes of the deepest of sinful human motivations, Mother! is lazy and self-indulgent. Get over yourself already, Aronofsky, and the next time you create a film without a single worthwhile scare, please think twice about previewing it as a horror thriller.
SpecialK Verdict: **Eye roll**
Mother! opens September 15.
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