This is without doubt the most divisive movie to come out in a long time. People either hate it or love it, with very few people on the fence about it. I make it a point not to read reviews before I go to see a film I’m planning to cover, but the headlines screaming about mother! (not to be confused with one of my favorite Korean films called Mother sans exclamation point) couldn’t be ignored. It got an F from viewer-polled Cinemascore, but earned raves from some well-known critics. The New York Times even posted an article titled, “Hating ‘Mother!’: Readers Speak Out.” And after finally seeing it for myself, I understand both sides of the argument, but come down on the WTF#?! side.
The film has been falsely marketed as a psychological horror flick, but it has a lot more pretensions. At the center is a never named couple – a poet (Javier Bardem) and his wife/muse (Jennifer Lawrence). They live in a big house in the middle of nowhere that she is renovating as he struggles to write. But their quiet life is disturbed by a stranger (Ed Harris) showing up at the door, moving in, and inviting his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and family and a load of other strangers to take over the house. Wife/Muse is not happy about it, but Poet loves the attention. Then the strangers bring death and destruction and eventually they’re thrown out. And things are back to the quiet life, until Poet writes a hit poem (are there such things?) and Wife/Muse gets pregnant, and then another army of people descend on the house and there’s more death and destruction.
The folks that love the film see all these things as a brilliant allegory. I got it, but found the whole thing a hot mess. And Jennifer Lawrence? I usually like her, but she is more wooden in this than she was in Serena. She spends the whole film sighing and taking a mysterious yellow elixir when she gets overwhelmed, which is pretty much all the time until she get preggers. Bardem is more dimensional, but their chemistry is nowhere to be seen. The audience is left to put together clues of a burnt down house, a shiny stone, a heart beating in the walls of said house, and something about destruction and renewal. Is it a biblical allegory, or a statement about fame, or, as was mentioned in an interview with the director, something to do with global warming? Frankly, after sitting through it all, I don’t care what writer/director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Noah) was trying to say. He lost me.
For a great compendium of opinions on the film read this from the New York Times.