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Mace & Crown | March 22, 2018

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‘mother!’ review: know what you’re walking into!

Tyler Passarge | Staff Writer

Since its release, the reactions for “mother!” have been deeply divided. Some critics have praised it, while others have dismissed it as pretentious or alienating. The audience reactions haven’t been quite warm either, and the box office has made that evident. This all begs the question, is “mother!” worth checking out at all?

The film follows Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as a couple, who reside in a lavish house in the middle of nowhere. As Bardem’s poet character struggles with writer’s block, his significantly younger wife is tasked with remodeling their home that was seriously damaged by a fire. The couple’s tranquil life is disrupted by the presence of another couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) whose destructive nature begins to breathe new life into the poet’s work.

Although her husband becomes enamored with the couple, Lawrence’s character begins to notice that their chaotic and invasive nature is starting to eat away at their marriage and home. Her fears and anxieties, however, are only ignored. Their once tranquil life is slowly transformed into an apocalyptic battleground that puts the wife’s well-being in danger.

Trailers and other promotional materials pegged “mother!” as a conventional, home invasion thriller featuring the “Hunger Games” star. It would even be possible to obtain the notion that this is a horror film dealing with cult behavior. These preconceived notions aren’t wrong; they’re even a gross oversimplification of the film’s themes. Viewers should be warned though because this is not the movie that’s promised in the trailers.

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky has stated in interviews that the writing of the script for “mother!” was a five-day process. This was a process that he has described as a “fever dream.” He knew from the moment of conception that the film would garner some truly polarizing reactions.

So what is “mother!” if not something on the more conventional side of things? Well, “mother!” is a mixed bag of pitch black comedy, grotesque imagery and complex symbolism. It’s a movie that bases its structure largely on major stories from the Bible to tell a bigger story about creators and how fanatics take ownership of the creator’s work and destroy it.

The film has an over-the-top nature that makes it feel disconnected from reality. Some people will appreciate this method of storytelling, while others might not. The style of storytelling, however, is still utilized to create a modern portrait of the world and the people in it. Everything leads up to a third act that takes its allegory to its most extreme level.  Those that haven’t already bought into the film’s bizarre premise will most likely be turned off by this.

Everyone in the cast really sells the premise with their performances, including Lawrence and Bardem. Lawrence plays her role in a very passive, doe-eyed manner that generates sympathy and really connects with the audience as the story escalates. Likewise, Bardem takes a role that could easily be one-note but instead gives a lot of complexity and understanding to his character’s actions. Watching the two play off each other is an absolute marvel to witness.

There is a lot to swallow while watching a movie like “mother!” It’s a weird movie that has a lot to say and is trying something that’s completely out there. A lot of praise should go to Paramount for having the courage to not only finance a movie like this but also for standing by it even after its disastrous opening weekend. With a lot of original ideas being distributed on streaming services like Netflix, it’s very refreshing to see something like “mother!” get a wide theatrical release.

Love it or hate it, there is something daring to a movie like “mother!” that at least deserves a chance. With proper preparation and understanding with what the movie is trying to do, it’s possible it could eventually find a wider audience. Ultimately, viewers will have to take a chance with “mother!” and be the judge of that.

“mother!” is now playing in theaters.