Sept. 19, 2017
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Mother! Review

The ugly side of creativity

September 15, 2017, 12:40 am

Is filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) attempting to diffuse the concept of May-December relationships in Mother! (like his own with the film’s star, Jennifer Lawrence, for example)—or is he simply ruminating on the idea that creativity and creative types thrive on non-reciprocal adoration and eat up everything good in their path? Either way, he’s strayed into far weirder territory than perhaps even 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, though the imagery and unstuck-in-time nature of Mother! is at least more disconcerting.

J-Law is some nameless woman, apparently Beetlejuiced into never leaving her countryside home which she shares with Javier Bardem, a similarly nameless man whom we discover is a poet who can’t write after other, also nameless people (played excellently and beyond creepily by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) show up mysteriously to hang around loving on the poetry.  This doesn’t sit well with Lawrence, who spends the entirety of the film sinking deeper into the fever dream from a vantage of powerlessness; at all times she is cleaning, renovating, worrying, while Bardem and crew shirk off her obviously mounting frustrations. Bardem, it seems, loves the attention from strangers despite Lawrence’s concerns that he’s allowing outsiders into their paradise.

And oh, how it gets worse. A pregnancy spurs momentary calmness, but also inspiration in Bardem and, in defeating his writer’s block, an opening is provided for every insane fan, agent, publisher and hanger-on to appear, thereby transforming a would-be dream house into a labyrinthian hellscape of illogical proportions. Like Lawrence, we begin to question the reality of the situation. Is she going mad, or is her adjacency to fame and bright-burning creativity simply more than anyone can handle? Regardless, there is magical realism afoot, albeit born of black magic. The more she pulls against the throngs now inhabiting her home, the more their numbers grow and the more Bardem attempts to calm her—which is maddening.

There may be more questions than answers by the time Mother! ends, and the imagery and symbolism are a mite on the nose for anyone who cares to google its stars and director. Having said that, it still sticks with you long after it’s over and will surely cause plenty of conversations. No, this isn’t a horror movie in the traditional sense; more like challenging, high-concept satire—though we’d point out very little is funny in a ha-ha sort of way. Whatever else, though, it’s dark and scary with more than enough of Aronofsky’s trademark directorial touches to make it worthwhile. Just prepare to feel sort of … off.

+Aronofsky might be the master of disconcerting weirdness
– Marketed in a rather weird way, could be too bizarre for some
Directed by Aronofsky
With Lawrence, Bardem, Harris and Pfeiffer
Violet Crown, R, 121 min.


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