By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Writer/director Darren Aronofsky is one of Hollywood’s most unique filmmakers. With movies Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan, and Noah in his filmography, one never knows what to expect from the talented, but enigmatic artist. If The Wrestler is Aronofsky’s most accessible and mainstream film, then Pi was his least accessible (but brilliant) entry. I say, “was,” because his latest movie could very easily earn that description now. Mother! might have some star power with actress Jennifer Lawrence in the cast, but Aronofsky’s latest could be either his most divisive or even the most hated movie he has ever made.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star as a married couple living in a quiet and isolated house in a beautiful area they consider paradise. She spends her days rebuilding their home, which was previously destroyed by a horrible fire, while he tries to find inspiration to pick up his career as a successful writer. Their mostly quiet and peaceful life comes to an end when a more mature married couple (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up uninvited and turn out to be rather inconsiderate guests. Their stay at the home sets off a bizarre chain of events which begins to test the patience and sanity of the young wife and could possibly destroy what might have already been a troubled marriage from the start.
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, mother! is definitely an unnerving and disturbing cinematic experience. Though the story might be his most bizarre, the film does share some stylistic elements from previous films Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and might have even drawn some inspiration from Noah. As I sat in the theater in awe, I felt like a fly on the wall witnessing Aronofsky’s fever nightmare. The film begins as fuzzy and hazy tranquil dream that slowly devolves into madness, chaos, and even worse. The events that occur are certain to leave audiences bewildered, frustrated and confounded.
As a whole, it is all a lot to take in and process, and I left the theater feeling overstimulated and with a slight headache. It was only after processing the craziness of the film and all of the pieces, did I start to form a more complete picture of what I experienced. It is certainly possible, though, that there may be more than one interpretation to the story. My big take away from the film is that Aronofsky has a tremendous amount of feelings and emotions as an artist seeking inspiration for his work and dealing with both adulation from fans and criticism from those who do not like his work. Aronofsky seems to channel his feeling and experiences into the film, while also using loads upon loads of Biblical references and offering comentary on the dark side of human nature. I know this sounds completely confusing and maybe nonsensical, but Aronofsky manages to make it mostly work if his audiences can put the pieces together. I could elaborate more, but I would hate to spoil anything about the film.
I truly admire Aronofsky’s boldness and uncompromising approach to his art, regardless of whether or not people will be able to appreciate his work here. Though the movie is a rather ambitious piece, it might also be a little too ambitious in what it attempts to express. In the end, it often feels a tad self-indulgent and too outrageous for its own good. On the other hand I will give Aronofsky kudos for bringing something strikingly different to cinema and for refusing to conform to conventional standards.
Regardless of how anyone feels once they watch this movie, I can pretty much guarantee that everyone will agree that, to its merit, the movie does feature some extraordinary performances by the cast. Both Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem show quite a broad range of emotions with their very demanding roles in the film. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer also perform superbly as a pair of strange and disruptive house guests who seem to leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. The movie also features tremendous performances by Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, and Kristen Wiig.
It is with much reluctance that I recommend this movie for everyone. I feel that audiences who have enjoyed some of Aronofsky’s more unnerving movies will probably enjoy this entry more than anyone else. For those unfamiliar with Aronofsky, but who can enjoy or appreciate a surreal nightmare of a film, then this one should be pleasing to them as well. Mother! is not a typical horror film or thriller, nor is it any kind of mainstream movie at all. It is a sometimes perplexing, sometimes thought provoking work of a subversive artist who has a talent for challenging and disconcerting his audiences.