By the time Darren Aronofsky and Jennifer Lawrence’s latest film Mother! made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, people were already talking about it. It had gotten both a standing ovation and boos from the crowd at the Venice Film Festival, and movie going fans from around the world didn’t know what to expect. After TIFF, the film got mixed reviews and when the film made its theatrical debut a week later people stayed away from it. But the question is, was it really so controversial and bad? That is a tricky question to answer, and here’s why.
On the surface it’s hard to pinpoint what Mother! is really about. Basically it’s a story about an unnamed man and woman living together in a house that had been refinished after somehow surviving a fire. They are married, and he makes his living as a writer. When two uninvited guests arrive, things start to fall apart. As things crumble, you start to get a feeling that things aren’t quite normal in the house, and that what you are seeing, isn’t really what you are seeing. Jennifer Lawrence’s character seems to be on edge and hallucinating, while Javier Bardem’s seems too aloof and uncaring. And after yet other uninvited guests show up, one of which is murdered by his own brother, things get even weirder. By the time the movie ends, and you are able to somewhat piece together what you’ve just seen, you still might have difficulties figuring out what the story was all about. Therein lies the problem.
Art house movies have being doing what Mother! did for years, that is create a story that is trying to tell a different story at the same time. Or a parable. The problem is, you usually go into those films knowing what you are going to get. Audiences going into Mother! had no clue, and were expecting something different thanks to the star power of Jennifer Lawrence and the trailers making it look like a horror film. Mother! is no horror film. While Mother! is fascinating and draws you in, by the time you get past the half way mark you start shaking your head at it for being over the top. And be forewarned, during the end there are some controversial scenes that will make you want to look away. They are not for the average audience, and seemed very unneccessary.
Is Mother! a bad film? No, not really. Jennifer Lawrence was incredible to watch, as was Javier Bardem. The right audience will get a lot out of it, and enjoy watching it over again and again to try to get more meaning out of it. Mother!’s failure is due to it not being marketed correctly. Average film-going crowds will not enjoy it, and if they were drawn in by the trailer they will be disappointed. Darren Aronofsky likes to play with his audiences’ mind, and that’s just as apparent in this film as in his previous works such as Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream, but he needs to realize that there is a limit to what he can do in mainstream cinema.
Mother! is out December 19th on Bluray and DVD.
By: Roderick Thedorff