jennifer lawrence and javier bardem deliver unforgettable performances in mother!, director darren aronofsky's praised opus. experience the visually arresting psychological thriller that will leave your heart pounding and your mind blown!
This is a very difficult movie to review without major spoilers. I can either just say "spoiler alert" and then promptly ruin the whole thing. Or I can be circumspect, and perhaps not tell as much as would be satisfying. I'm going to take approach #2, because in the end, I would hate to go into this movie having had someone "explain" it to me first.
Having said that, I DO think it's very important to state that this is NOT a horror movie (at least, not in the traditional sense). The trailers make this film look like some kind of artsy, weird, off-the-hook horror film. A modern day, graphic ROSEMARY'S BABY, perhaps. MOTHER! is NOT that. It has many horrifying events and images...but it is a virtually unique product. If you only like going to movies with some idea of what to expect...this film is likely not for you.
On the other hand, if you're comfortable sitting down to watch a film with virtually no preconceived expectations, and have a strong stomach and lots of patience...you should be rewarded.
The film, other than a brief, odd opening sequence, starts of "normally." Jennifer Lawrence wakes up to discover her husband is already missing from bed. We see that she lives in a lovely country home that is undergoing significant renovation. We discover that Lawrence is re-doing the house herself, and her hubby (Javier Bardem) is a famous poet who is undergoing a bit of writer's block, and has been for awhile. There are some tensions in their marriage, but they seem pretty mundane. In the evening, there is a knock on the door, and Bardem invites in a stranger (Ed Harris) and seems to immediately develop an oddly close relationship with this man. A relationship that excludes Lawrence. The film's tone immediately shifts to something mysterious and, for lack of a better word, "off."
That's all I'll tell you, expect to say that this movie just builds its oddities one after another, growing on and on in strangeness and it becomes downright unsettling and disturbing. You'll likely spend a lot of time with the movie having no idea what's going on. We see it all through Lawrence's eyes (in fact, she is seen almost exclusively in closeup), and as her confusion and alarm grow, so does ours. As the movie arrives at its last third, it truly goes completely nuts. It descends into seeming chaos, and grows from alarming to downright uncomfortable. There are a few very difficult scenes.
Director/writer Darren Aronofsky, who has made films both excellent (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, BLACK SWAN) to mediocre (NOAH) to downright unwatchable (THE FOUNTAIN), often seems to grapple with deep issues, and certainly takes a lot of care with his films. He demands careful editing and challenging cinematography. His actors are often pushed to extremes. In the case of MOTHER!, I found Jennifer Lawrence to be quite effective, especially by the end of the film when pieces have started clicking together. It's her movie, frankly, to carry or blow, and she mostly carries it. Her chemistry with Bardem is spotty, but it almost makes sense by the end. It's a frustrating viewing experience for much of the movie because you can't help but try to impose meaning on it all...and you really can't unless you're amazingly perceptive...at least, not until the last third of the film. THEN what happens is you have to spend an hour afterwards reflecting on the early part of the film and putting it into context.
MOTHER! is a difficult film, and I cannot recommend it (even though I give it 4 stars) because I also understand that a) the film is infuriating and b) once the "answer" is revealed, viewers might be enormously offended when they discover what the film is about. It is just, frankly, a deeply challenging film. I really enjoyed myself, and will watch the film again (this time, knowing from the start what it is about)...but it's also just a bit smug too.
And the single biggest mistake was having Kristen Wiig appear in the film. I like her a lot, and she's proven over and over that she has dramatic chops, not just comedic. But she appears suddenly during some critically important events and it seems like a crazy cameo and not a real performance. The audience sniggered, as though anticipating a nice bit of comedy from her. I feel bad for feeling this way, but there are certain performers who would always briefly pull an audience out of a film if they showed up unexpectedly...folks like Will Ferrell, let's say...who are known for their antics on film first and foremost. Arnofsky should have avoided this casting.
I hope I've helped give you some vague idea of what you might expect. Whether you decide to go is another thing. Oh, and by the way, PLEASE do not bring children. There are some VERY disturbing things (if they are even still awake when they happen) that were pretty tough for adults to see. I saw a few folks storm out during these scenes...and I can't imagine having to explain them to young kids afterwards.
The fact that this movie offended people so much only serves to highlight its brilliance. Without giving too much away, this complex movie is shocking and thought-provoking. With interesting stylistic choices in claustrophobic cinematography, lighting and color schemes that look effortlessly natural, and 0-60 and back again pacing, this movie has a number of bold artistic choices.
The story is difficult to describe without giving things away, but it will leave you confused and trying to figure things out. However, some moviegoers evidently did not try very hard to understand the movie, because once you realize the meaning of it all, everything fits perfectly into place. Conversely, many people are reading their own interpretations into the film -- a hallmark of any great piece of art.
The acting by the A-list cast is quite on-point.
And, as a horror film, it is quite scary. As YMS said, "it's the closest you can get to filming a nightmare." The film makes you feel unrelentingly anxious and trapped. It has some of the most grotesque imagery I've seen in a film (and for comparison, I've seen "A Cure For Wellness" and "A Serbian Film"), so much so that I was surprised the ratings board even allowed this in theaters; I wonder what they might've had to cut out to keep it from an X rating? If dazzlingly shocking imagery is not your thing, you will not like this movie. However, many moviegoers seem to think their easily-offended sensibilities are a good barometer as to whether a movie is good or bad, which is a mistake if you're trying to be objective.
This movie is not only controversial because of what it shows, but because of its plot: some do not get it and are upset the movie is trying to make them think, because they wanted to be entertained and nothing more. Others are upset because they do get the plot, at least somewhat, and are deeply offended at perceived insults unto this or that. Either way, it is quite impressive that a movie has gotten people talking this much.
"Mother!" is an art film and a horror film, an odd combination that many moviegoers may not enjoy. However, it is objectively a brilliantly directed film. Aronofsky created precisely what he set out to, and captures his vision spectacularly, and it's beautiful. I'm wary of being pretentious, but I'm genuinely baffled at how much the average moviegoer dislikes this film. Perhaps their expectations were wrong, or they didn't try hard enough to understand the movie (not that it's even that hard). Or, they did try, and got too offended. What a shame.
Please, go see this. It is a shame that actually good films don't make an ROI whilst "The Emoji Movie" does, and gets nearly the same audience score as this. Have an open mind, and don't bandwagon the hate train.