Mother! Plot Summary:
A frustrated writer (Javier Bardem) and his simple wife (Jennifer Lawrence) allow a stranger (Ed Harris) to stay in their isolated house, setting off a chain reaction where the wife’s entire world begins to unravel.
This is a strange way to begin, but for anyone who complains about when superhero films get too dark, just remember there are movies like Mother! out there. Yikes. Darren Aronofsky is a brilliant filmmaker, but his movies usually aren’t made up of unicorns and rainbows. Despite all the darkness and psychological horror he creates, there’s always a point to it. Sure, they rarely end happy (if ever), but there’s always power behind those tragic endings. A purpose. While Mother! has Aronofsky’s trademark style all over it, this movie felt like the ramblings of a film student gone mad with power. Let’s put a bookmark in what is a crazy and vile third act, because there’s a lot to digest with Aronofsky’s latest opus.
What makes Aronofsky such a great director is he’s able to meld mood with character. With Mother!, he only succeeds at the mood part. From the opening image, you are locked into Darren’s world. You instantly know it’s his movie. There’s a quiet contemplation, but you can feel the birth of something that is going to go horribly, horribly wrong. It’s a Darren specialty. Unlike his other movies though, I don’t care about Jennifer Lawrence’s character.
Lawrence is credited with playing “Mother.” There isn’t a whole lot to this person. She’s very simple. Quiet. Very content living away from everything with her husband, a famous writer, played by Javier Bardem. In turn, there’s nothing to this guy either. He loves and appreciates his wife, and that’s pretty much it. Then Ed Harris comes into the picture, a visiting doctor who needs a place to stay. Other than having a bad cough, there’s very little to this character as well. The first fifteen minutes is just watching Jennifer Lawrence get upset there’s a strange man staying with them. It’s boring. What are we doing here, Darren? It’s not until Michelle Pfeiffer comes into the picture where the movie starts to pick up.
Pfeiffer and Lawrence are total opposites. Lawrence is very guarded, whereas Pfeiffer kicks down the door in a blaze of blunt force honesty, grilling Lawrence every which way about her relationship with her older husband. This is where the movie gets going, as there’s finally tension and conflict.
The problem is Darren Aronofsky gets too Darren Aronofsky. At a point where he could have explored Lawrence’s character, Aronofsky opts for gobbledygook subtext land, where Lawrence keeps seeing blood everywhere, but it doesn’t mean anything. I’m sure people much smarter than me can explain the symbolism, but I had no clue what Aronofsky was going for here.
The movie jerks you back in when we finally start to see what this character is all about. While her isolation and simplicity made her a boring character at first, it’s not until her world really starts to become undone where the character finally becomes interesting, and in turn, as does Lawrence’s performance. This is where Aronofsky excels, as we begin to see a character completely unravel.
We also learn more about what Bardem wants when the two have a huge blow out. Bardem can’t write because they are completely tied off from life itself, but that’s exactly what Lawrence wants. Now that’s good conflict. As a side note, when does isolating yourself from the world ever work out for writers in film. Whether it’s Jack Nicholson in The Shining, or Chevy Chase in Funny Farm, it never ends well.
After this conflict is established, Aronofsky finally hits his stride. The idea of this house off in the wilderness getting completely invaded by chaos and mayhem is entertaining, as is watching Lawrence react to her perfectly constructed world crumbling before her eyes. The problem is Aronofsky goes completely and utterly off the reservation. What begins as an intriguing character study turns into complete lunacy. You could have thrown in robots, zombies and aliens, and it would have made just as much sense. The movie loses all its power at the absolute cartoon it becomes.
At this point, I was checked out. The film lost me. But then Darren goes one step further. The last fifteen minutes is a barrage of ugliness and cruelty. Again, Aronofsky has done this before, but there’s usually a point to it. Mother! is completely empty though, leaving the viewer with nothing but an unpleasant experience.
I’m not going to say this was a bad movie, as there’s definitely some strong imagery and good performances, but walking out of the theater was like spitting out expired milk. It’s something I just can’t recommend.
Maybe after Noah, Aronofsky’s most mainstream movie, he felt like he needed to do something absurd and void of hope, but after this one, he may need to direct Transformers 6 to cool the hell down.
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Barely Passable Entertainment)