Movie Review: Mother!
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer
Plot: A couple’s relationship is tested when they invite challenging houseguests into their home.
At this point, you have probably already heard about Darren Aronofsky’s newest horror movie, Mother! It got an F Cinemascore and for some reason everyone decided to start listening to Cinemascore. It is one of the most divisive movies of all time, and now that I have seen it, I can totally see why. Not only is it a chore to watch in that special way that all Aronofsky movies tend to be (ie satisfyingly), but it is also visually stimulating in such a way that it might be trying to drive you insane, especially an absurd 30 minute montage ending of morally questionable visuals (hence all the venom).
SPOILER ALERT: I actually liked it
It stars Jennifer Lawrence, an actress who I have started to sour on after uninspired performances in 2 different sci-fi franchises and 2 half-baked pieces of David O. Russell Oscar-bait, however, Mother! proves that her roles in Winter’s Bone and Silver Linings Playbook were not flukes. In fact, the integrity of the movie is almost entirely on her shoulders since nothing explicitly scary happens for most of the movie. Every bit of tension and fear the movie has to offer is delivered by Lawrence and her own anxieties. The camera hangs directly on her face for most of the movie like a reverse POV shot while everything else happens in the peripheral, very reminiscent of the intimate camera work of Blue is the Warmest Color. Her usual loud and animated screen presence is replaced with an understated and nuanced introverted frustration.
That introverted personality type is really important to the overall theme because it is essentially a three-way analogy mash-up of religious zealotry, misogyny, and environmentalist. Lawrence is essentially Mother Nature presented as a “barefoot and pregnant/silent unless spoken to” homemaker having her hospitality taken advantage of. That makes Javier Bardem’s Him a stand-in for God. God and Mother Nature are working together to build a home (aka the Earth), but really only Mother Nature is working. She is painting and fixing up the house, while Him pines over blank pieces of paper hoping poetry will eventually manifest itself. As the movie continues, so do the stand-ins: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and even a Noah-esque flood.
The religious zealotry was as heavy-handed as a hammer to the head, but it is primarily used for structural purposes. It gives the narrative a beginning, an end, and a natural rhythm in the middle. However, it is hard not to see the direct line from zealotry to systemic misogyny that plagues Lawrence for most of the movie. Despite the fact that she is a creator (the primary designer of the sole location of the movie as well as the only selfless support system Bardem’s Him has), every character sees her as something less than that: a young trophy wife, a live-in servant, generally ungrateful, and a “sure thing” sexual conquest. The person who makes that last assumption is especially vile in his short screen time.
Aronfosky takes it one step further relating our tragically traditional aggression towards women as the reason for our current environmental crisis as if Mother Earth is a literal domestic abuse victim that we aren’t taking serious. Mother! basically has the same message as Aronofsky’s Noah but done less accessibly (aka artsy fartsy). It feels like he is progressing his “obsession as a character piece” motif and turning the mirror on us more. His takes used to feel like “what if we were actually this obsessed,” and now it feels like a rhetorical “what’s even the difference between this obsession and yours.” What used to feel like an extreme hypothetical is now more of an inevitability. *shivers*