Darren Aronofsky’s latest motion picture is sure to launch a thousand film school theses, so allow this to become one of your citations! Mother! is a tricky film to talk about because, much like FILLER!, every sentence will look wrong unless you manage to place the title at the end. Then it just looks like you’re shouting, which is preferable to not knowing where punctuation goes. After the The Wages Of Cinema podcast collaboreview (They let me discuss a movie that’s not based on a comic book or sci-fi!), it’ll be all SPOILERS. The story is fairly simple, but it’s stuffed to the gills with so many metaphors & ambiguous themes. The most nonspoilery synopsis I can give is “Renowned poet Javier Bardem invites creepy strangers into his giant house much to the chagrin of his devoted yet neglected wife, Jennifer Lawrence.” The characters are credited with descriptions, so I can just refer to the cast by their real names with impunity. It’s a movie that transcends its pretension by going all out.
Lawrence is has the doe-eyed innocence expected fro embodying a Hope/Virgin Mary/Earth figure. She tries to keep a veneer of civility even as her doubtful guests take liberties with her coerced hospitality. There are many uncomfortable close-ups of her face. Bardem is often cast as a villain, so seeing him as a joyful extrovert is intentionally unsettling.
Patriarchal power imbalance defines the central heteronormative romance. The fact that he’s literally God exacerbates this. It’s unusual for a toxic relationships because it’s neither intentionally nor directly abusive. Bardem is neglectful of Lawrence’s needs, but he doesn’t seem to ignore her out of malice. Their comfort levels are almost inversely proportionate.
It’s fascinating how the movie upends the traditional views of selfishness & generosity. Charity is supposed to be a virtue, but Bardem encourages his guests to take without regard to the consequences. Lawrence greedily struggles to protect her property to avert chaos not out of sin. The couple needed to mutually consent to the disposition of their worldly goods.
One of the more nuanced depictions of the creative process is found in Mother! Acclaim is usually reserved for the creative genius at the expense of those that supported them, but Lawrence is equally creative is rebuilding Bardem’s house & cooking his meals. Without her, he lacks the environment to write his masterpiece. Despite all her efforts, he takes her for granted in favor of the randos he claims are inspiring him with their life experiences. He is a parasite feeding off her. Since everyone in the film is conjured up by the poet, however, one could argue that the traditional view of only the artist mattering is valid.
I did not host a meat-space release party for (the presently out of print) The Dolorous Adventure of Brother Banenose, so I was very envious of Bardem’s hugely successful signing party. He wrote one placemat’s worth of verse to universal acclaim! (If he wrote a Preacher season 2 review it would’ve been much more popular than mine.) On the other paw, I’m kind of relieved because I dislike human interaction even more than introverted Lawrence, though I’ve been told I can be charming when intoxicated.
Bardem may have pulled a rib out of dying doctor Ed Harris’s back without killing him & tried to flush it. His horny wife, Michelle Pfeiffer, is so great at oozing passive aggression onto Lawrence. (If they’re Adam & Eve, that makes the crystalline heart of Bardem’s wife from a prior cycle the Tree of Wisdom’s fruit. There’s no Serpent because the curiosity was within them all along!) Publicist Kristen Wiig is very chipper about shooting people execution style so I would’ve liked a bit more of her. Emily Hampshire of SyFy’s 12 Monkeys recklessly breaks an unbraced sink, which causes an allusion to The Flood. Consummate character actor Stephen McHattie is in this too! There are even more obscure actors epitomizing aspects of human nature, but I’ll need to see it again to catch’em all. Oddly Mark Margolis isn’t among them.
The last third of the movie is where many people say it goes off the rails, but I say it’s where all the subtle momentum finally pays off. It becomes Well That Escalated Quickly: The Movie. It instantly goes from a book party to a war zone without transition. It could also be called Scene Missing: The Movie if you believe conventional time lapses are necessary.
Not only is eating Lawrence’s & Bardem’s baby an obvious literalization of the symbolic cannibalism of Christianity, it can double as a metaphor for artistic criticism. So me & anybody else who tries to analyze Aronofsky’s oeuvre is an infant-eater by the transitive property. Bardem as God the Auteur forgives his squatters because it’s what his fans need, although he does finally intercede to save his wife from the ensuing riot. Contrariwise this is the straw that finally breaks Lawrence’s less detached back. While very unsubtle, this graphic scene is more resonant than Brendan Gleeson’s (he’s not in the movie) real life kids going Cain & Abel.
So the whole thing is a modernized abridgement of The Bible. It’s a gripping adaptation, but after this I’m Bible-ed out. Please make allegories about more diverse religions from now on, filmmakers!
The marketing evoked Rosemary’s Baby, but it’s more like High-Rise. Both are social satires set in a haunted house. I didn’t realize that until the end of High-Rise, whereas the supernatural is explicitly show in the second scene of Mother! You can’t say it didn’t set that up early. Both are also funny in a Buñuelian sense due to the absurd violations of social etiquette.
Gender imbalances, the creative process, celebrity, religion, environmentalism, & probably lots more are woven through Aronofsky’s Mother! (I mean his movie since I’ve never met his mom.) It’s got mind cud for everyone to ruminate upon! The most pressing mystery is actually what the identity of the yellow health tonic Lawrence periodically drinks while stressed. Quick! Go write a thesis on that!
With much help from her staff, the lucky thirteenth mouse has finally been slain by Princess Pawpads!
After all the effort, she just chewed its face off & refused to finish off the rest of the carcass. I may be living with a purrverse serial killer.
Remember to start watching Gotham on Thursday instead of Monday this week! Words shall flow about this next blog. How many hiatuses will they work in this season?