A Kevin Short review of Darren Aronofsky’s new film.
Having been a Darren Aronofsky fan since ‘Pi’ and ‘Requiem for a Dream’, and his successful venture into the commercial league with ‘Black Swan’, after the disappointment of ‘Noah’, I was relishing the thought of seeing Mother! The exclamation mark that accompanies the title must preempt the various audience reactions to come, like; WTF! After a day of thought, I am no less confused about it all. So much of it was captivating, nay, gripping. Beautifully shot and edited. A sound design that survived brilliantly without a note of music, and endless moments of WTF!
But…what is it all about?… I hear you ask. My reply? I have no idea. An autobiographical, metaphorical nightmare, from Aronofsky’s frustrations as a writer? I hope not. A surreal distorted retelling of our Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus’ plight as seen through a God-like Javier Bardem? Who knows? Or, could it be, there is no simple answer to this conundrum of a tale, other than it being a stream-of-consciousness self-indulgence from a filmmaker who has earned his stripes? To be honest, I can’t imagine any film Exec understanding any kind of pitch for this film, but after hearing Ed Harris had agreed to play the MAN, Michelle Pfeiffer the WOMAN, with Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence playing HIM and HER (the MOTHER!), who needs to read a script? Love the exclamation mark – Give him the money, and off we go!
And so, an Arthouse movie goes mainstream. No bad thing. Yet, it’s a film that maybe outstretches itself in more ways than one. The convoluted themes of self-doubt, hedonism, frustration, anger, obsession, love-hate, intertwined with countless other emotive moments of brooding for one thing or another, all add up to a film that puts itself beyond critique, which means, you’ll either love or hate it, or both, in equal measure. Jennifer Lawrence is certainly stretched as far as any actor could be. There are only so many ways to say ‘No!’ ‘Stop it!’ ‘Don’t do that!’ and by the last reel, Ms. Lawrence has sadly run out of variations. Even Mr. Bardem, again sadly, showed signs of an actor on the cusp of Repetitive Emotions Syndrome. Only the cameos of Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer truly survive the demands of the Executives’ unread script.
The rest is silence, at least, for in between the meandering dialogue, is where the horror, intrigue, and mystery, works best – when the creak of a door, the sudden lighting of a stove, makes you sit up and take attention again. By the final reel, I’d given up hope of comprehending any of it, and allowed the magnificent overblown gratuitous imagery to take me to a world reminiscent of Pasolini/Fellini/Argento/Jodorowsky, and as the credits rolled, I was happy to sit until the bitter end, pondering the meaning of it all.
Wait a minute, perhaps, it was Phoenix rising from the ashes over and over again, only to discover its existence was a man-made myth which its creator failed to be inspired by; unless he fathered a child with his long-suffering muse who would, at last, be called….Oh, what the hell, go see it for yourself!