Darren Aronofsky has made perhaps the most divisive film in recent memory with mother!, a film whose true genre is kind of a spoiler, but I’ll tell you this much: it’s nothing like the horror/thriller the ads promised. I guess the easiest non-spoiler way to craft the film is as a drama, but just about any film has elements of drama in it, so I guess now you’re just waiting to see what I have to say about the movie: do I land on the side of it being a pretentious piece of art cinema that was whored into being a studio film? Or on the side of it being an auteur expression and a statement film from Aronofsky that is worth being reviewed again and again? Well, I’m falling into the latter on this one.
Okay, so like a few other films I’ve reviewed, the plot of the movie is something of a spoiler if you go too far into it or imply too much, so I’ll leave it at this: Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a married couple who have recently fixed up a house in the middle of nowhere. Early on we get the sense that they’re a married couple, but not a happily married couple. Potential trouble arrives when a man and later his wife arrive at their doorstep, and at first they seem like easygoing folks who have come out to celebrate Bardem’s character, an acclaimed author. However, when they overstep their bounds and more and more guests arrive, things get crazy and sanity will be thrown out the window.
In case this is your first time seeing my review, I will clarify that I do not do a spoilers-filled review under any circumstances, so I cannot go full into why I really thought this was one of the most entertaining films so far this year, but that’s about all I can say on the subject: it was one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen so far this year. Add to that I think this is one of Jennifer Lawrence’s better performances in years, probably her best since American Hustle (2013). Also great jobs by Javier Bardem and Ed Harris. Michelle Pfeiffer also gets some decent work here, but I wasn’t as impressed with her as others have been. Still, the cast is all-in for this one and it shows. Aronofsky is also a director who’s been criticized for sometimes going style over substance, but in this case, since the story is a relatively simple one, I didn’t mind it so much. The camerawork was good, the house’s interior and outside are characters onto themselves, and the lack of musical score increases the tension of the plot as it goes. Really, I wish I could go further, but for those who have seen the film and know what’s up, and not going into spoiler-territory, I’ll say this: I liked what Aronofsky was doing. That’s all I can say.
Now for the negatives of the film, again I’m confined in what I can and can’t say. The choices he made as far as what the actual story is and what mother! is all about is really a fun, individual choice that I dug, but there’s times when the film does wander into a somewhat predictable nature once we get into the actual plot. It wasn’t a crucial blow, by any means, and I was invested in the characters enough to the point where I knew what was going to happen, but I was still fascinated to see how exactly Aronofsky and co. would present it and if they could make it cinematic, and boy do they ever with a couple of examples. Still, I guess there are some light plot-holes here and there that get in the way and some ideas that work for a ninety second scene but that don’t really fit into the context of the full story and are there more for shock value and for filler. Again, I could bring up some examples but we’re getting back into spoiler-territory.
So at the end of the day, I can’t quite go into a full discussion here as to why I think this is a brilliant, weird, and very original work that should be seen by film students, regular movie-goers, just about anybody who can see it, but going into the full explanations are tough at this stage. Maybe give it a couple of months then I can revisit the film and tell you exactly why this could be a dark horse contender for some Oscar-love and maybe a spot on my top ten list of the year. A short review, for sure, but let’s hope this is just an introduction to something bigger, and a first film that tries for something very ambitious and makes it worth the time and effort to conceal. That’s kind of the bottom line, I guess. For those who went in expecting one thing and came out seeing something else, was the subject matter worth talking about, the story worth telling, and the experience one you felt was a fun joyride or was it a frustrating mess that had you scratching your head the whole time? This is honestly one where I came out having a blast and really on a high, but for anyone else, it could be the exact opposite.
My rating: 9/10.