Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky *rolls eyes*
Starring: Jennifer Lawerence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
I usually love movies that center around utterly outrageous and absolutely bonker narratives. Ones that don’t let up until you adoringly digest the message it wants to convey. However, Mother! was not that movie for me. I didn’t like it, but I also didn’t hate it. I’ve been struggling to write this review for some time because Mother! is a complex film with deep messages, but boy howdy… is it pretentious as f*ck.
Mother!, directed and written by Darren Aronofsky, tells the story of a man (Javier Bardem) and a woman (Jennifer Lawerence) who occupy a beautiful house in constant development. The woman is a homemaker. The man is a writer. Both try to bring “life” into their home. The woman takes care of all the essential needs as she supports her man who struggles to write. Things change between the already strained couple when a man (Ed Harris) visits their home. This mans presence sets off a chain of events that both confuse the woman and threatens to destroy the home she worked so hard to build.
Darren Aronofsky makes a film in the veins of storytelling via avant-garde and experimental works like that of Maya Deren or David Lynch. He tries to mind-bend, shape reality into a nest that he wants you to see. But where this experiment goes wrong is where you need to tell that prolific message. Aronofsky gives us HIS sermon on the mount. He provides a lesson to humanity. He wants you to listen to everything YOU’RE doing wrong to the earth. The message of this film is entirely clear: YOU are the problem.
The whole film is an allegory of the destruction and “rape” (I only put this in quotes because this is what people have called it, especially Lawerence and Aronofsky) against Mother Earth and all the horrible shit that humans do to her. Aronofsky does create a compelling story, weaving in heartbreaking and polarizing imagery that will make you squirm. However, he doesn’t let you breathe. You’re meant to feel like absolute shit, mainly when the latter parts of the film arise (we’ll get to that later). He quite literally beats the allegorical message into your face.
We should get into some of the things that worked within the film before I continue with what didn’t. I never thought I’d say this, but the biblical reimagining was one of my favorite things. The entire first and second act is the reimagining of the story of creation. Javier Bardem plays God and Jennifer Lawerence, in the respective role, plays Gaia aka Mother Earth. The reimagining of their tale is something that helps this film develop because we all know the story but never told like this. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer come in as Adam and Eve with Domhnall Gleeson, and Brian Gleeson as their sons Cain and Abel and this immediately catches your interest.
If there’s one big thing that I truly enjoyed about this movie it was this. The first two acts contain these characters were compelling enough to keep me on board with whatever was about to happen. I was sad (and a little pissed) to see most of these characters go, especially Domhnall Gleeson’s Cain. He creates such an intense and proper scary atmosphere in his little time onscreen and then departs in the shadows. What the hell?! Give me more of THAT story Aronofsky, but I digress.
Joining in my missing of Domhnall, I also loved the Adam and Eve portrayed by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. THEY were the ones that genuinely brought life into that house. The first visitors (creations) to occupy their space. They’re the counterbalanced couple to God and Gaia. Even though they could be as opposite as can be, they work so well together. The biblical temptation scene with Eve plays a significant roll in this movie as well. In the first two acts, the story of creation is modernized to a high point where I was genuinely into the film. However, we can’t overlook the glaring issues the rest of it has.
I’ve both criticized and praised (barely) Aronofsky enough, so I’ll let him sit this one out… for now. We now need to talk about the stars of our film: Jennifer Lawerence and Javier Bardem.
The chemistry between the Bardem and Lawerence is utterly CRINGEWORTHY. Again, to put this film into character context, Javier Bardem is God. He’s not concerned about the little things that go on around the house, but more about the things that go on around him. He’s more or less an egotistical and narcissistic creator who tries to find beauty encompassing him but at the expense of others. Lawerence plays Gaia, a woman who is trying to build a paradise for her and her husband, but still, tries to support him the best she can. She can only do so much, but support is something she’s giving willingly. The both of them are opposites, nothing like Adam and Eve who are free with their love. These two are more reserved and show little to no affection for each other.
Now, you may be saying, “Okay, so what’s your point in saying this?” I say this because I get the fact that they aren’t supposed to be lovey-dovey. That’s why I said “character context” at first because there is a difference between engaging and thought out characters and the actors who play them and one was DEFINITELY better than the other.
I like God and Gaia. They play an unusual yin/yang off each other. The selfish and the selfless. The creator and the creative. They’re complicated in this world and very much still trying to be together the best way they can. I didn’t like Bardem and Lawerence. Bardem and Lawerence did nothing to make their characters (who are engaging) stand out. The actors seem to be disinterested in each other, and yes, the audience can totally tell.
Lawerence is mind-numbingly dull and dim, wide-mouthed half the time and not giving it her best (but hey, at least her boobs were terrific tho? Am I right?). Even though she’s downright gorgeous in this film, it doesn’t excuse what she brings onscreen. Bardem was… alright. He tries to salvage this movie by playing the best version of the asshole God he can while Lawerence sits there still with her meek voice and mouth always open. I give him way more credit in this matter cause Bardem is A+ when it comes to the big screen. Their chemistry is just way off… which doesn’t leave you wanting to be a part of anything they, or their characters, are apart of.
To close off this review, we need to talk about that third act. If you’ve been reading up to this point and don’t want it spoiled, I suggest you turn away now. Still with me? Okay.
In the third act, we go full BATSHIT. I’m talking Gotham City at midnight mixed with Mad Max and every single war film you can think of. Yeah, it goes that f*cking crazy.
Gaia (I won’t call her anything else at this point) is pregnant by this point. God has finally written a book with the inspiration of his first born child coming into the world. It seems like everything is starting to finally come together for the couple. This all changes when a couple of fans of God wants to get autographs from him. They want to be in his presence. God, naturally, accepts this. Gaia is upset that her night with her husband is ruined. Here’s where everything takes a HARD left turn. The crowd starts to flood the house, taking everything and anything they want because “the poet” (GOD) told them that they could. He said them whatever is his is theirs. He then tells Gaia that they can replace it.
This is where things get really f*cking weird. Bombs start exploding. Rituals performed in their basement are legit terrifying. Assault and harassment happen against a pregnant Gaia. She watches people gun down and execute others. Orgies. People take her f*cking sink. It starts to become this massive mess of exploitive and explosion within the house, and that doesn’t feed well within the viewer’s brain. Some people can handle it, but from the things I’ve read or heard, most people were upset with THIS. You’re able to understand what’s going on but you’re not ready to process it.
Films work within the refractory period much like orgasms. There needs to be a point of break. You need to come down off your high, but this third act doesn’t let up. It’s camerawork, and editing is outstanding, but it doesn’t give you time to come down. It’s completely overwhelming. This overpowered narrative in the third act is coupled with the ultra-violence against Gaia which in itself is VERY difficult to watch. Also, her baby (Jesus. It was Jesus. Thank you, Michael, for this note) is killed and ripped apart by the crowd. This is the part where it comes back to Aronofsky being the most pretentious and saying YOU’RE the problem. All of this happening is the vilification of humans (and God for that matter) and what they’re doing to Gaia.
I know I went over my limit on for review on Mother!. It’s more of an analysis by this point, and I can totally go on. As much as I disliked the movie and its many unbreathable moments, it does have those moments where the story polarizes you. Mother! won’t be for everyone (and shouldn’t be) but I’ll say WATCH IT. It’s not the best thing of 2017 (far from it), but its something to experience at least once. After watching this, I actually turned on Gravity Falls to know there’s some good in the world. So, hug something after you watch it. You’re going to need it.