“mother!” ambitious, falls short

“mother!” has been labelled by multiple reporters as the most hated movie of the year. They’ve got the data to prove it, as the movie’s tanking nationally, despite an A-list cast. “mother!” opens with a husband and wife, played by Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence, and their quiet life within their rustic house. The man, a poet, struggles to find inspiration for his next work, while the woman tries to turn the house into their dream home. This is a movie that is difficult not to spoil, and if you think you are going to enjoy this film, you have a lot to gain by avoiding spoilers.
You’ve probably at least heard of director Darren Aronofsky’s other films. If you’ve seen “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler” or “Black Swan,” understand that this film will be closest to “Black Swan” in terms of experimentalism, and that movie was already the love-it-or-hate-it of 2010. “mother!” is high risk, with some reward.
Most of the movie’s successful storytelling stems from the wife’s plot. She maintains the house tirelessly, but her husband doesn’t seem content and pays her no attention. When a man arrives, saying he’d mistakenly heard the place was a bed and breakfast, Bardem’s character invites him to stay in their home as long as he’d like, without warning his wife first. This and many more decisions like it help make this movie one of the most frustrating films I’ve ever seen, in a good way.
On the other hand, one has to question where to draw the line. The second act became so grossly repetitive that I was left wondering when I could leave the theater. The last thirty to forty minutes flirts with parody when the movie begins to move at a breakneck speed through a crazier and crazier environment. The movie’s dueling natures work to hurt its own qualities. Its disturbing visuals and tone helped mystify an otherwise down to earth plot, but once I realized “mother!” was almost entirely an allegory, the visuals lost their effect. I’d been warned so heavily of that disturbing scene only to find it was so swamped in allegory that it lost much of its effect.
Because that’s what “mother!” is, an envelope-pushing allegory. If you’ve watched enough interviews with the cast and crew, you know that the movie is a retelling of the Bible. Jesus symbolism is one thing, but this movie’s scenes obviously mirror key moments from the Old and New Testaments. You can discuss this to hell and back with whoever you saw it with, as I did for two hours, but I believe a movie as nonsensical as “mother!” shouldn’t also force itself to tell such a well known story. That’s where you might disagree. “mother!” lends itself to great discussion, despite its flaws. If you’re a big enough movie-lover, I would recommend seeing this movie for yourself so you can understand what all the talk, and hate, is about. If you’re looking a nice night out, however, you can do better elsewhere.

Post Author: Nathan Gibbons