Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, the much anticipated film Mother! hit theaters today. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star, with Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer rounding out the cast. Billed as a drama/horror/mystery, Lawrence and Bardem are a couple living in this massive country home who somehow wind up entertaining strangers, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. The drama exists between Lawrence’s character and every other character in the film, including the house itself. The horror is that she is unable and at most times unwilling to pull herself out of what is happening to her. The mystery is, you really never quite know what Bardem, Harris and Pfeiffer are up to.
In theory, this could have been a really great movie. The idea of it is very cool. One theme that stands out revolves around the “cult” of celebrity – in other words, the “God-like” worship fans can have for celebrities and how celebrities may let that worship consume and change them. This concept was dealt with in a pretty cool way and is the crux of everything that occurs in the movie. At least I think that’s what Aronofsky was saying… It’s a bit hard to tell because there was so much going on it all felt muddled. This movie has vibes from Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, The Amityville Horror, The Shining, Night of the Living Dead and more, so it has this lively potential to go in all these different, thought provoking directions, which makes Mother interesting.
What was less interesting and made no sense, was that Jen’s character dismissed important events; casually suppressed them, and carried on into the next horror as if it were nothing, including happenings in the house and the way her husband and others treated and talked to her. The polite, gentle nature of her character and her lack of outrage is what moves the story forward, but it is also what weakens the story because it is not believable. It’s also what annoyed the heck outta me. Just as an example, I find it improbable that if my house were literally bleeding I would fail to make certain to mention it to my husband, regardless of whatever other chaos is occurring at the time or how crazy he may be acting. As far as I’m concerned, a bleeding house trumps everything. But maybe that’s just me?
Mother! keeps you guessing, but it keeps you guessing for far too long as we watch Jennifer Lawrence pad around this huge house that she is personally renovating, in bare feet. Although the house is absolutely massive it does not seem as though it is, because we don’t see enough of it. How many times can one watch J Law go up and down steps, down to the basement, to the front door, to the guest room, to the bedroom, to the bathroom, etc., with a look of simple (as in, you’re a simpleton and when are you going to start carrying a weapon around that house or get the heck out of there, or at least put some damn shoes on!!!?) curiosity on her face? This movie started at 11:05 a.m. By 11:51 I was ready to walk out. By 12:16 I had to recommit to stick it out until the end, and there was still 44 minutes to go! It honestly felt like torture at some points and it was exhausting.
The horror is original, and includes an exciting combination of the average person’s worst fears. This is what draws you into the movie. So you are definitely captured by Mother! for a time. If Mother! had been heavier on the horror and/or simply edited out some of the repetitive barefoot stair-walking parts of the story, it could have been a much stronger film.
I could have counted the number of words that Jennifer Lawrence says in this movie. Her character was so passive, docile, domesticated and dull I couldn’t relate to her. (Honestly, the bare feet alone nearly drove me mad. This woman gives new meaning to the term “barefoot and pregnant.”) With all the things going on in this movie, I would have probably slept in my shoes in case I had to run at a moment’s notice. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are outstanding here. You will want to hurt them both.
Mother! earned 6 out of 10 bloops. It is so-so and could have been better, but it is certainly not all bad. It has some really interesting and thoughtful elements to it, but it’s just didn’t pull me in all the way (with the exception of the stressful, exquisitely done, horror sequence) and caused me to check the time far too often. Mother! attempts to redeem itself in the last few minutes, but the payoff is weak and not worth the 2 hour investment in a story that feels like it is going nowhere and will never get to the point. I cannot recommend paying full price to see it. Catch it at a matinee if you must, but I would suggest you wait to stream it.
Never had to do this before but I feel the need to revisit this review.
After posting, it has come to my attention that I somehow “missed the mark” on my review of this movie. Last night I read this Vanity Fair article on the intended interpretation and what is behind the symbolism. The article states that much explanation was given by Aronofsky before early viewings he attended. Was he planning on attending every viewing? I think not. The fact that Mother requires so much explanation, and most people (anyone not connected to the project) would not guess it is about anything close to what he says it is about, indicates he left too much of the story in his head and failed to express enough on film. In this regard, I feel as though the film fails. Someone else has to “get” what the writer is talking about, sans accompanying texts and lengthy introductions. If I wanted to read about it, I’d prefer it were in a book, rather than a film. I stand by everything included in my review and the score it earned with me stands.
For the record, I do not read or watch interviews about movies before I see them, so that I’m not influenced by the opinions of others before I write. I don’t watch trailers because I do not wish to see the best parts of the movie beforehand. There is no lightbulb moment in Mother where the intended meaning behind it all becomes clear to the viewer. That’s what is missing and why many didn’t/do not get it. I am not the one who “missed the mark.”
***Note: I’ve seen American Assassin, but I’m too tired to review it just now. Pay the matinee price or wait for it to stream. You can thank me later!
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m seeing next…
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro