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[Review] ‘mother!’ is a Bold, Fascinating, and Divisive Experience!

[Review] ‘mother!’ is a Bold, Fascinating, and Divisive Experience!

Prepare yourself for a myriad of think pieces because Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (please note the lower case and the exclamation mark) is upon us. If you have seen the trailer, the clips or the reviews, you may think that you have a sense of what the film is about, but as with most Aronofsky films, this is one best experienced for yourself. I will say that the word on the street in Toronto is single minded: this is a very divisive film. It is not for everyone…and that’s probably why folks should check it out.

Let’s backtrack: mother! tells the story of a married couple living in a secluded home in the middle of a clearing in the woods. Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) has been renovating the house while Him (Javier Bardem), a renown poet, works to overcome his writer’s block. One day Man (Ed Harris) knocks on the door and, after learning the identity of Him, Man ingratiates himself into spending the night in the guest room. The next morning Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives and, in due course, their sons Younger and Older (real life brothers, Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) do, too. And they refuse to leave. And others continue to arrive.

Aronofsky spins a dizzying web with both his screenplay and his direction. Mother is without a doubt the film’s protagonist, so the film’s insanity is all presented from her point of view. As a result, she becomes the mouthpiece for all of the audiences’ reactions, which frequently amounts to “WTF is going on?!” Literally every other character in the film – none of whom have proper names – refuses to act like a sane, normal person, including Him, who indulges the whims and flattery of the strangers without question or discussion with his much younger wife. This regularly leaves Mother in a subservient, reactionary position; she answers the door, prepares food, cleans up messes, and roams the halls of the gorgeous home after and in search of others.

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To say that things only get weirder with the appearance of each subsequent new person is an understatement of enormous proportion. mother! reminded me of the counter-cinema filmmaking style of Jean-Luc Goddard, who regularly introduced the most bizarre events in his films to shock, confuse and break down the fourth wall in order to remind his audience that they are watching a film. mother! reminded me of one of Goddard’s most infamous sequences: a single take dolly of a traffic jam that includes horrific violence.

While removing the audience from the film is not exactly Aronofsky’s intention, the film is without a doubt a self-reflexive meditation of the role of the artist as creator, inspiration and muse and the ritualistic worship of celebrity above reason and sanity. There’s an inherent circularity in mother! that speaks to the creative process and it’s baked into the production not only at the narrative level (the film opens with a fiery rebirth), but also Aronofsky’s staging of the action, which finds Mother running in endless circles around the house amidst the action. It’s also difficult not to read into Lawrence’s casting (she’s Aronofsky’s girlfriend and current muse) in the way that he keeps his camera trained on her face throughout the film; in this way her every panicked reaction and injury is a canvas which reflects the escalating Bacchanal chaos and violence occurring within the house’s walls.

The two-hour runtime will challenge mainstream cinemagoers, as well the virtually non-stop frenzied nature of the action. Aronofsky rightfully breaks the worst of it into two separate extended sequences – one involving Harris, Pfeiffer and their family conflict; the other six months later just as the dust has settled. Both, but especially the latter, will test patrons’ capacity for chaos and confusion, especially if they are not fully on board with the madness that Aronofsky is selling. It should be noted that mother! isn’t particularly scary, though sound is frequently used to great effect to create a sense of unease. This complements Aronofsky’s shaky handheld shooting approach and closer framing to keep the audience unaware of what is happening until Mother stumbles upon it throughout the film.

mother! is unequivocally not a film for everyone and it will be incredibly divisive when it is released on Sept 15. I fully expect that it will wind up on many end of year lists in both the Best and Worst categories. Personally, I found it a bold, fascinating, and slightly pretentious film, which places it well ahead of safe, but bland films. I firmly believe that while many will be turned away by the nature of reviews and word of mouth, this is absolutely a film that audiences should see and experience for themselves. For this reason, I strongly recommend mother!



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COMMENTS

69 Comments
  • i heard there’s one particular scene that will haunt the audiende. Was this true for you?

    • benmachado

      yes. it was hard to watch

    • zombie84_41

      One scene LOL try like 50. The last 45mins of this movie is a WTF of the senses, then it just goes on and on and on and on and on and then you get to more WTF is going on then you get this one huge holy fucking shit followed by no they didn’t followed by WTF followed by you are going to have a fucking heart attack. So yeah.

  • sliceanddice

    So…. not a vampire movie then? I dunno why, but i got strange The Beyond vibes from this.

    • zombie84_41

      Nope not one bit I thought it was going to be too but this is 50 shades of mind fuckery. Thats what you get here. If you thought M night was the master of twists and fucking with people This movie is cranked to 200 and never lets go. Its so goddamn kinetic and insane and will have you thinking at the end wtf did i just watch. Go in with and open mind and I hope you will enjoy it. As the rest of us did.

    • Definitely not vampires, though there is some fantastic stuff going on.

  • MaryMaria

    Excellent, excellent, excellent! Seeing it this weekend and I’m super stoked! Not surprised to hear how divisive it is and mega curious to find out why. Ahh, tomorrow can’t come soon enough!

    • MeeGhoulz

      Your avatar pic and user name are awesome! Love SH!

      • MaryMaria

        Thanks, same here, obviously! Too bad Disqus is a bitch sometimes and I can’t log in properly. I think I’ve just about figured it out. I love how Maria’s design was based on Christina Aguilera, so funny.

        • J Jett

          MaryMaria, Disqus is glitchy for me too sometimes.

        • MeeGhoulz

          Haha! They have a thing for beautiful latinas if we remember SH4, but then again, who doesn’t? Really hope to see a good new entry sometime… Oh, Konami!

  • Cheddar Hayes

    The movie sucks. It’s no Blair Witch.

  • SuperTroll

    Starring Jennifer Lawrence. Nope, I won’t be seeing that. Maybe it was something she tweeted.

    • JackJonston24

      Username checks out

  • James

    After his horrible version of Noah, and starring Jennifer Lawrence, I can’t help but be very skeptical of this one…

    • zombie84_41

      NOAH was great.

    • JackJonston24

      So one bad movie in his whole career and an actress you don’t like is a reason for not checking this movie ? Well you will have to excuse me if i don’t take you seriously .

    • Alias Darker

      you’re not the only one

  • Dave Galloway

    Another bought and paid for review on BD. Wouldn’t expect anything less.

    • J Jett

      what makes you say that Joe’s review was bought & paid for? i’ve read most/many of his reviews and they seem pretty authentic/non-paid for to me. maybe he genuinely liked mother!.

      • Dave Galloway

        This. 3rd update, Friday 9:48PM Well, it’s clear: Moviegoers officially hate Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! The film scored a rare F grade from CinemaScore audiences tonight, and there were many rivals heading into the weekend who were expecting that type of reaction. As we heard at noon, the bold Jennifer Lawrence pic is crashing well below its projections with an estimated $8M in third.

    • Elizabeth

      …because he liked the movie? Is that not allowed?

    • zombie84_41

      Oh look another troll that nobody gives a fuck about. Go back into your ditch.

    • If you’re suggesting I was paid by BD, then you are correct. Like most major websites, Brad and John pay their writers.

      If you’re suggesting I was paid for by the studio, that’s pretty laughable – that doesn’t happen.

  • I can’t wait for this! DA is a fantastic director with style to spare!

    (Side note – Did Trace quit Bloody Disgusting? Feel like I never see him anymore)

    • zombie84_41

      Right I never see Trace no more. Guess he left with out a Trace. HA!

  • Jay Bennett

    Everything about this movie looks decent, shame she is in the lead role…

  • SutterKane

    I must be out of the loop but reading the comments here, I just have to ask – What is it about Jennifer Lawrence that people hate exactly?? I mean, to me she’s just another another run of the mill actress, I don’t jump for joy when I see her name on something but why are people saying they won’t watch this just because she’s in it?? Do people really think she’s that awful or did she just say/do something controversial??

    • Elizabeth

      She gives zero f*ucks what internet trolls say. That’s a cardinal offense for some people.

      • Dave Galloway

        LOL! She better start caring. 3rd update, Friday 9:48PM Well, it’s clear: Moviegoers officially hate Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! The film scored a rare F grade from CinemaScore audiences tonight, and there were many rivals heading into the weekend who were expecting that type of reaction. As we heard at noon, the bold Jennifer Lawrence pic is crashing well below its projections with an estimated $8M in third.

        • Elizabeth

          …why would that make her care about basement dwellers who can’t get a girlfriend? She didn’t write it or direct it and she did a good a job with the material she was given. I saw it yesterday and it was too “art film” for my tastes but some of my friends really liked it.

        • Alias Darker

          i can’t stand her, i can’t stand the director , so i’ll avoid the movie lol . horror movies nowadays suck anyway , they’re more disgusting than scary

    • Jesse Sikora

      She’s awesome, great actress!!

    • Will Ft. Daft Punk

      She tweeted that climate change is real and everybody lost their ish over it. She now its trendy to hate on everything she does.

      • zombie84_41

        LMFAO but climate change is something real and it is happening. Scarier shit is I was reading an article saying The Day After Tomorrow is real, and could very well happen and is happening. It won’t happen at such a quick pace like the movie but over time it will happen. IDK what’s scarier that or NK having nukes.

    • Vanessa Atkins

      *cracks knuckles* She rubbed her arse on a sacred landmark in Hawaii, after she was specifically told not to, and found it hilarious when the locals were horrified and disgusted. She named her cat after Chaz Bono because she thought it was a boy but it turned out to be a girl, because trans people are hilarious. She informed Alfonso Cuaron she broke out a “rape scream” at Gravity. She mocked someone with OCD, and after they pointed out it was a real problem announced she didn’t care. (I also have OCD, so that particularly annoys me). She’s also just reached the point where her “OH MY GOD, I’M SO NORMAL AND QUIRKY!” is just really annoying now.

      I think she’s a decent actress, given the right material, but she’s kind of a shitty person.

  • Jordan KO

    What’s the twist?

    • Creepshow

      Spoilers!!!….

      It’s a song by Chubby Checker.

    • zombie84_41

      Where do you want me to start ?

  • Jeff

    I will see it Saturday, but this sounds like a take on part of the Torah. Pretty sure DA was not able to make the “Noah” he wanted to. The filmmaker as creator aspect is an interesting take as well. Reading this review though, I would take HIM and “the Inspiration” as God and Earth, Man & Woman as Adam & Eve and so forth. Maybe a bit heavy-handed but interesting. Looking forward to it.

  • Sky Ferreira

    I did not enjoy this one at all; I thought it was very nonsensical. Guess it just wasn’t for me.

    Maybe I’ll revisit the film down the road and appreciate it. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    • JackJonston24

      Yes,let’s instead have more generictrash like The Conjuring,Insidious,or whatever mainstream garbage is vomited from the anuses of Hollywood

      • Cheddar Hayes

        This movie was pure garbage.

      • SutterKane

        Never understood the knee jerk reaction of bashing one thing just to support another. The Conjuring is a good movie, and so was mother!, A good, well executed standard is just as valuable and artistically credible as a maverick, innovative art film. You can like both.

      • Sky Ferreira

        Whew! My comment really struck a cord with you lol!

      • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

        Rather that, than pretentious, absurd codswallop shite like mother!

  • Derek

    I’m just excited that the trailer and marketing didn’t spoil the entire film for once.

    • zombie84_41

      Me too they did a wonderful job of keeping it together. The trailer and marketing made the movie seem like something really different and it is something really different.

  • Seed

    Just saw it. Very, very weird movie that will definitely not be for everyone.

    SPOILERS:
    The whole movie is a take on the Bible with Jennifer Lawrence basically being Mary, her husband being God, and the intruders being Adam and Eve who end up dooming everything. The film is called mother! because the wife gets pregnant and her son ends up being sacrificed to her husband’s crazed followers. The baby devouring scene is extremely disturbing.

    • zombie84_41

      Thats what I was thinking. So i was right he was suppose to be God. And the followers keep fucking up GOD’s Plan for something beautiful so he has to keep trying and trying till he gets what he wants.

    • Absolutely. I didn’t touch on the religious allegory much because it’s not my forte. There’s also an environmental reading – Mother as Mother Nature, etc. The film lends itself to lots of readings, which makes it really interesting to discuss once people have checked it out

      • Dave Galloway

        Joe. You are definitely in the minority.
        3rd update, Friday 9:48PM Well, it’s clear: Moviegoers officially hate Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! The film scored a rare F grade from CinemaScore audiences tonight, and there were many rivals heading into the weekend who were expecting that type of reaction. As we heard at noon, the bold Jennifer Lawrence pic is crashing well below its projections with an estimated $8M in third.

    • Vanessa Atkins

      My friend said that, and I can completely see it. However I saw it a little differently. The idea of celebrity culture. She’s the celebrity, who wants to create. He’s the agent who pushes her to the limits by bringing press, paparazzi and the media intrusion into her life. The baby was her latest project. The followers were the fans and the general public, who devour the work, and then try to destroy her for it. The ending was her mental breakdown, imploding, the stone was the memory of the beauty she created and not the whole story. The new mother at the end is the new celebrity coming to light, ready for the whole process to repeat itself.

      It is definitely one that you can see a thousand different ways and I love it for that.

  • Will Ft. Daft Punk

    Saw the trailer for the first time yesterday. It looks interesting but it will have to wait until I see IT first.

  • zombie84_41

    WTF just happen? This movie was beyond fucked up. Hello 2017’s mind fuck. I almost lost my breath during those last 45mins.

  • Natebest

    Saw this film yesterday. LOVED IT!
    Great thriller with ALOT of horror elements. it was a true mind fuck.

  • Natebest

    I cant see the general auidence likeing this film. It leaves you asking questions and the basic american audience doesnt like critical thinking.

    • gabriel

      You should leave then since this is an american website and you’re too good for it.

    • SutterKane

      I’ve been reading reviews all over the web for this thing, and the obvious outrage and anger in some of them is proof that this movie is effective. It goes beyond just not liking it, you can feel the vitriol coming through the keyboard. The movie actually offended them and they can’t even hide it behind faux objectivity.

      • Alias Darker

        and people like you can’t even hide that you only love this movie because it offends christians, in faux objectivity 🙂

  • Jada Maes

    “It’s also difficult not to read into Lawrence’s casting (she’s Aronofsky’s girlfriend and current muse) in the way that he keeps his camera trained on her face throughout the film; in this way her every panicked reaction and injury is a canvas which reflects the escalating Bacchanal chaos and violence occurring within the house’s walls.”

    *Makes jacking off and throwing it gesture.*

  • SutterKane

    Just got back from seeing this……Whoa!

    I’ve been watching these kinds of movies all my life and I could probably count on 1 hand the amount that have actually disturbed me, but the ending of this one is up there with the best of them. The last segment of this one is worse then the “Meltdown” sequence in Requiem.

    I don’t want to say much because its kind of hard to go into it without spoiling it, but I’m putting on the same level I put something like “Martyrs” or “Visitor Q”. Brilliantly made, without a doubt, but I doubt I’ll ever actually watch it again……… though I’ll probably end up with the deluxe edition Blu Ray on my shelf anyway at some point.

  • Aslinn McIntyre

    I got the sense that this movie has a Rosemary’s Baby-esque feel to it, if not the letter but the emotional pitch of the film…would I be wrong in thinking that? I don’t mind the sort of challenging of religious images or views, but does it work as a story or is it just shock value that is often the case for so many movies like this?

  • Alias Darker

    anti christian bigotry , child sacrifice , with jennifer lawrence in the main role ? liberals will love this movie 🙂

    • Freida Peeple

      Shouldn’t you be off worshiping on the street corner with all the other hypocrites so you can be seen by many as righteous?

  • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

    It was overwrought, pretentious and utterly ridiculous and it bombed HARD at the box office.

  • William Thomas

    Climate Change Hysteria as allegory. The allegory isn’t even in the least bit subtle. Jarvier Bardem is God, J-Law is mother nature (or perhaps Virgin mary) and the house is the earth. Harris and Pfeffer are Adam and Eve and the Gleeson brothers are Cain and Abel, and of course all the unwelcome house guests are the rest of humanity.

    God opens his home to humanity and we treat it like dirt. For the next two hours we are beaten over the head on how awful we humans are to nature’s creation and how we should be ashamed of ourselves.

    The only thing missing is the offering box being passed around to the audience to help offset the carbon footprint necessary to project the film and for the audience to get to the theatre.

  • I thought it was great, and classic Aronofsky. It’s been a LONG time since a movie affected me so viscerally. As I was walking back to my car after the movie, and was mulling over what it was about. There seemed to be some kind of creation myth involved, and lately I’ve been harkening back to E. Elias Merhige’s “Begotten.” Yes, the film was most unpleasant, but no one ever said that good art had to be pleasant or “enjoyable.” There is something to be said for pushing people out of their comfort zones. Movies as provocative as “mother!” don’t come along very often.

  • Sean Smithson

    Thank you for the astute review. SO many “geeky” sites are completely at a loss as far as seeing this film in any kind of context. it’s maddening. Love it or hate it, one still needs SOME context to absorb what is happening (as in having seen Bunuel, or Jodorowsky, or even having a firm grasp on Gilliam’s BRAZIL and the work of David Lynch, as well as the obvious go-to, Polanski)

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