HOLLYWOOD—I was eager to see this movie, I mean when I first witnessed the trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s new flick “mother!” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem I was all in. It looked like a twisted psychological thrill ride that would leave audiences floored. Hmm, that is the problem with anticipating a movie: rarely does the hype deliver and in this case it crashed and burned to unbelievable heights.
I will point this out; I was NOT the biggest fan of “Black Swan.” It was a film that left me underwhelmed in terms of its narrative, however, the performance by Natalie Portman was epic. “Mother!” which stars a fine list of Oscar-caliber talent, has way too much going on, way to preachy and really wants to teach the audience an important lesson, but gets so caught up in its biblical allegories, the spectator loses focus or is so confused by what is going on, you completely check out the film.
The movie stars Lawrence and Bardem, as husband and wife who live outside the norm; they live in seclusion, in a place where they rarely get visitors until one day it all changes. Neither Lawrence nor Bardem’s characters have actual names. Lawrence’s character is referred to as Mother, and Bardem’s character is known as Him. He is struggling with writer’s block, and as we’ve seen with flicks like “The Shining” and “Secret Window,” writer’s block is never a good recipe for a happy ending.
Out of the blue, Man (Ed Harris), yes that is his man, just shows up at their home looking for a place to stay. His sudden appearance alarms Mother, who is later shaken when Man’s, Wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) stops by their house the next day. Their arrival eventually leads to more odd visitors that plague the home and further place mother into an emotional, mentally unstable mess. Aronofsky is known for using visual spectacle to convey certain dynamics in his movies. Sometimes to the level of extreme, that leaves you as a viewer a bit unnerved if you ask me. There are elements of lust, rage, temptation, envy, pride, and so much more. I almost felt shades of “Seven” and the seven deadly sins, but without the tightly knitted puzzle that narrative had. However, as one digs deeper into the narrative it becomes clear the movie is much more paying homage to the Bible, Earth and God.
One cannot deny that this is an intelligent movie, but when a movie is so twisted so allegorical and so out there that the audience has difficulty following the pieces of the puzzle it’s not a success. If the audience has no clue as to WHAT is going on that is never a good sign for a film in my opinion. I want to equate it to the 2001 flick “Memento,” a clever and crowd-pleasing thriller by Christopher Nolan. The difference between that flick and “mother!” is that movie strategically placed clues throughout where a spectator could watch a second time and connect the dots. With “mother!” this is a film that has to be watched multiple times, I would argue at least 5-6 times to just have a general grasp of what is taking place.
I appreciate cinema that is thought-provoking and raises questions about everyday life, religion, eternity and destiny, but if your audience is left with more questions than answers, where is the success in that? Darren Aronofsky is a phenomenal storyteller, but “mother!” just misses way to marks to satisfy, particularly the lack of development for a bundle of the characters and a narrative that is too twisted even for the smartest viewer.