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academy award® winners jennifer lawrence (silver linings playbook) and javier bardem (no country for old men) deliver unforgettable performances in academy award nominated darren aronofsky's (black swan) praised opus. the film shattered audiences and critics around the world. it s been called darkly exhilarating (justin chang, los angeles times) and aronofsky's most daring film yet (ben croll, indiewire). experience the visually arresting psychological thriller that will leave your heart pounding and your mind blown!
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This film is going to upset a lot of people who don't know what to expect going into it, but I liked it. The acting is superb, the cinematography is excellent, and I really appreciate the fact that this film expects you to truly think, instead of handing things over on a platter. I was also happy that it didn't depend on loud noises and cheap jump-scares to keep the audience invested. Instead the story builds suspense by telling us just enough to pique our interest. I will admit that the pacing can feel slow at times during the first hour, but there was more than enough to keep me hooked. Until the final 30 minutes, I was completely confused about what was happening, and will be surprised if many people can pick up on where the story is headed before the 3rd act.
Here are the Spoilers for those who haven't seen the film:
At first I didn't understand why any character was given a real name, but now I understand why. Judging by reviews, many people seem to get the general theme of the film being about religion and the director's distaste for humanity, but didn't seem to pick up on the details and put the whole picture together. I'm going to try and give my interpretation: It's pretty clear that this is supposed to be telling the story of creation from beginning to end. Jennifer Lawrence is supposed to represent some version of Gaia or "mother earth", and the house is the earth. She is trying her best to rebuild and maintain paradise, as well as her relationship with the "writer" (God). But then Adam arrives (Ed Harris), then we briefly see his rib removed, followed by Eve's arrival (Pfeiffer). During this time, "God" is communing and walking with Adam in the garden. Then Adam and Eve drop the stone and screw everything up (beginning the fall of man). The writer locks them out of his office, representing them being kicked out of Eden. The younger son kills the older son (Cain and Abel), because he didn't receive favor. Then "mother" becomes pregnant, which inspires the "writer" (God) to finish his next big piece, which becomes the Bible. After that, we see the rise of civilization and organized religion. Then society completely falls apart, and nobody respects the home (earth) and they start tearing the house down piece by piece, using the "writer's" words to justify it and claiming that it belongs to everyone. Obviously everything spirals down from there, and we see Jesus born to bring salvation to the people, the people of earth kill him, he is eaten (obviously a very sac-religious representation for communion) and so on until the mother brings on the apocalypse and God removes her heart and starts the cycle over again.
It's a VERY intense film that will leave a bad taste in many people's mouths -- which I completely understand; However, as a self-contained story I can appreciate Aronofsky's vision and his approach to story telling is amazing here.
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.