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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by moviexclusive 2 / 10

Utter bullshit masquerading as art, allegory or whatever excuse some deluded critics are calling it, 'Mother!' is a loathsome exercise in self-indulgence

I'll be honest – I f**king hated 'Mother!', and by that I mean I absolutely loathed it. If you thought 'Black Swan' was pretentious, well you haven't yet seen writer-director Darren Aronofsky's latest self-aggrandizing piece of 'artistic filmmaking'.

The titular character is never named, and as played by Jennifer Lawrence, is the adoring wife of an also unnamed middle-aged poet – referred to as 'Him' (Javier Bardem) – stuck in writer's block. They live in a gorgeous octagonal Victorian mansion, which she is painstakingly renovating. We find out later that the house was burned down in a fire which consumed her husband's first wife, and that he had pulled from the ashes a burnished crystal which he now displays proudly in his study.

Then out of the blue, a stranger (Ed Harris) turns up at their doorstep. He says he's an orthopaedic surgeon who's looking for a place to stay, and that he had mistaken their house for a bed-and- breakfast. To her horror, 'Him' invites the 'man' to stay; and by the next day, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, followed by their two quarrelling sons (Domhnall and Brian Gleeson). Before the day is over, one son will bludgeon and accidentally kill the other, resulting in a pool of blood on the wooden floorboards that she will scrub clean save for a patch shaped in a vagina.

It doesn't take a genius to see the parallel with the Cain and Abel story in the Bible, or the 10 plagues that make a brief appearance one by one. Those familiar with Aronofosky will know that he has been fascinated with Christianity – from his first feature 'Pi' to 'Noah' to 'The Fountain', Aronofsky has consistently drawn allegories and imagery from Biblical stories. 'Mother!' is no different, but there is no coherence, no logic and no purpose in his references here.

The anything-goes, anyhow-told narrative has unwelcome strangers turning up at her house to mourn the death of the 'man's' son, an unleashing of pent-up passion between her and 'Him', her unexpected pregnancy afterwards that lets her morph into the Virgin Mary, her husband's sudden inspiration and overnight success, the arrival of cult followers that want to use her newborn son as blood sacrifice, and last but not least plenty of sectarian wars and conflict that culminate in a full cycle of destruction and reincarnation. Only those enamoured with 'bullshit' will think that revealing any of these unexpected twists and turns amounts to 'spoilers'; but really, it's a lot of shock-and-awe wrapped around a bastardisation of notable Biblical tales for absolutely nothing.

Indeed, even more absurd than the movie itself is how some have tried so strenuously to justify its nonsense. One reading has it as an allegory for the abuse of Mother Earth, a warning for climate change; another explains how it describes the process by which art is created and how the artist eventually becomes a slave to that art; another talks about how some men have treated their women in marriage, reducing them to supporting roles and robbing them of agency and respect. Neither of these interpretations disguises the fact that the movie is a haphazard mess of ideas that never amounts to anything substantial or compelling.

Why then should we put up with its misogyny? Why then should we put up with the overwrought delirium that just gets more and more sickening? Or more fundamentally, why should we even care about what's happening on screen? Not even Lawrence, or Bardem, or Harris, or Pfeiffer can add depth to their characters, which are so thinly written that we wonder why the actors even bothered. And therein lies the stark truth about the madness we are supposed to discern as an expression of profound ideas – there is simply nothing behind it, no meaning, no wit and certainly no redemption.

'Mother!' is the sad product of an artist's self-indulgence taken to its own grotesque extremes. It is no art, it is no genius, and it is definitely no masterpiece, despite critics caught up in the same pretension will try to convince you. If you're curious about why we hated it so much, then go see it by all means; otherwise, stay away from this motherf**king disaster.

Reviewed by fanaticusanonymous 4 / 10

It made me miss Rosemary Woodhouse

Darren Aronfsky is a director I follow, even since Pi. He's daring and unpredictable. I loved Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan, the rest of his opus has left me puzzled or downright annoyed. Mother! belongs to the later. All the element's were there - Rosemary's Baby written by Edward Albee - that's what I thought right up to Michelle Pfeiffer's entrance, then something happened - The movie falls through a totally unbelievable, hysterical downward spiral. What? Yes, exactly. Jennifer Lawrence suffers, puffs and moans from the very first frame, well second frame. She's afraid from the word go. She could run away but for some reason she never ventures out of the house. Questions like that become a massive obstacle for us to care and feel connected - Think of Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby or Colin Firth in Apartment Zero - co-habitating with a devil, surrounded by sinister neighbors or unwanted visitors. Those films also had sensational scripts and the narrative even when symbolic was always solidly based on the story at hand - Here it feels like gimmicks - One idea and then round and round the mulberry bush. I don't know how many times she shouts at her husband "Please make them leave" - Jennifer Lawrence goes through it valiantly and vociferously. Javier Bardem as the egomaniacal husband is absurdly unconvincing - and I'm a devoted a fan - Michelle Pfeiffer is the one who brings something new to the proceedings and a truly startling performance. Other than that, I'm sorry to say no to Mother!

Reviewed by Bill Z. 6 / 10

Thick on analogies and symbolism, to the point of overkill

I saw this at TIFF and the point this movie was trying to make became clear fairly early on. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but as the story developed, the analogies and symbolism went into overkill, to the point where their excessive nature diminished what was an interesting story.

The movie is helmed by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, two actors I'm particularly fond of. The short summary of this movie is that they are a couple who live in a beautiful, remote home. One night they take in an unwanted house guest (Harris), more at Bardem's choosing than Lawrence's. This leads to countless other house guests and invasions from the outside world, often to the detriment of Bardem & Lawrence's beautiful home, and Lawrence's well-being.

As the movie goes on, these violations against the home and Lawrence get increasingly bizarre and excessive. They get laid on so thick that, even if you have figured out the analogy by the midway point of the movie and enjoy the way the movie is getting it's point across, the sheer madness that transpires in the second half of the film is likely to sour you on the overkill applied to the message.

It becomes fairly apparent that the house and Lawrence's character from which the movie is titled represent our planet. Bardem's character represents a creator/God (in credits, his character is simply known as 'Him'). Harris and Pfeiffer, the original, invasive guests, are the original Man & Woman (Adam & Eve), and from there, a lot of the plot initially descends from biblical references and then into His desire to provide for his followers and to be adored by them, ignorant of how detrimental they are to the house and Mother.

At the very end, the house becomes overpopulated with people who are both zealots and warmongers who descend into utter 'WTF' madness while they destroy the home, murder the couple's child, and force Mother to burn down the home she so painstakingly created, killing everyone inside it. After the fire, He carries her out, and recreates the home with a new Mother.

As I said, it's a story thick on symbolism and message. I personally liked what they were going for, but think it could have been a much better movie if they had done it far subtly than with the extreme overkill they employed in the second half of this film. Looking at the reviews, I see a lot of people torn by this movie, and I think for these reasons. Some people didn't clue into the message very well and just thought it was a movie that made no sense. Others may not have liked the pro-environment analogies, while some may have loved how excessive the movie hammered it's point home. Another group likely felt how I did - that the plot and point was unique and interesting, but the sheer madness the film careened into during the second half was extremely excessive.

Overall, I give it a 6/10, with disappointment that a promising concept wasn't executed more sensibly.

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