“Get out of my house!”
Darren Aronofsky’s camera rarely leaves the confines of Jennifer Lawrence’s face in mother! This verite styling may begin to make some viewers claustrophobic, but that’s likely intentional. Especially as Lawrence’s dream home she and her unnamed husband (Javier Bardem) live in begins to feel like a prison. In the unsoiled paradise of a remodeled home, she does all of the hard work and he toils away at bringing a new volume of writing to his fans. Then an unprompted arrival (Ed Harris) makes himself a little too comfortable in Lawrence’s home. To her great displeasure, Bardem is endlessly friendly with this strange guest. Saying anything more would be spoiling, but things certainly go haywire.
Hell really is other people, and for Lawrence’s character it is difficult to assert herself in her husband’s presence. He is either incapable of saying no to his adorers, or something more nefarious is at work. Bardem’s portrayal intriguingly leans in both directions so that you can’t get a read on his character. It’s clear that he loves Lawrence, yet something motivates him other than building paradise out in the meadows. Initially, it seems like miscasting to have the vibrant Jennifer Lawrence play the walkover housewife, but as the story becomes more clear, so does Lawrence’s motivations for taking this part. In a move that is sure to catapult Lawrence back into meaty, adult fare, mother! goes out of its way to scorch all associations audiences might have with her as Katniss Everdeen. Such a development is an exciting one, and one hopes that Lawrence chooses other—perhaps, divisive—projects that allow her a chance to act rather than run away from explosions and Chris Pratt.
Aronofsky last effort Noah didn’t quite land as the auteur may have hoped, yet critics of his handling of the Old Testament are sure to cry for blood once they see this project. As far out there as The Fountain may be, the film is still restrained in terms of tone. mother! more closely resembles Black Swan in terms of off-kilter material. The film is messy, chaotic metaphor that may be Aronofsky tinkering further with Biblical themes after ‘Noah’, or the pratfalls of living with a celebrity, or about the sometimes toxic environment of living with a creative type. It’s really up to you to decide because concrete answers are not going to be served up. If ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Pi’ were too crazy for your taste, then avoid ‘mother!’ at all costs. Those with a darker sense of humor might be willing to give the film a shot. While the final result is definitely over-baked, it’s refreshing to see a major studio release something that isn’t focus-tested to death.
mother! is not typical horror fare like It, which was released last week to audience adoration, yet it’s not hard to see a cult following possibly coming in a few years. Midnight screenings of this movie will be a staple in metropolitan arthouses. Those unafraid to watch will be rewarded to one of the most unique group viewings that this fall has to offer. Every audience reacts differently, and, without fail, mother! will be unlike anything you see in a theater in a long time.