There is a certain style of movie that I just don’t enjoy: esoteric, overly stylistic, solidly metaphorical, presenting a reality only in the surreal. There’s just nothing for me to connect with, and Mother! is precisely this type of movie. It may have worked as a short, but as a full-length feature it seemed designed to punish an audience.
The gist: a married couple (Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence) have a beautiful house in the woods. He invites a strange man to stay (Ed Harris), whose wife (Michelle Pfeifer) eventually joins him, and then chaos ensues, as everything devolves into pure terror and destruction.
I’m not sure I was meant to find the movie hilarious, but I and the rest of the audience I was seeing it with certainly laughed along. With everything presented in metaphor as subtle as punch to the crotch, it was just one eye roll after the other. Lawrence is a charming personality, but I find her an inauthentic actress most of the time (loved her in American Hustle and Winter’s Bone, and nothing else). Here, she’s a void of personality (by direct choice of the movie, not her fault) and watching her just react to her surroundings is, more than anything, boring.
And did I mention the thick metaphor? It’s all biblical reference and earth day posturing that comes across as a lecture to the audience, indicting us along with all of humanity for our destruction of the earth. For real.
Writer-Director Darren Aronofsky is a talented filmmaker. I’ve respected some of his work, even if I didn’t fully enjoy it. Things like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan had great performances that anchored those films from his surrealist tendencies. But there’s nothing like that here. Everything is exaggerated to the hilt, and all in service of a too-simplistic point. As I struggled in my seat for two hours the only thought I kept coming back to is why can’t Michelle Pfeifer have a solid comeback in a vehicle worthy of her. She can say more with an icy glare than most actresses.
My grade – F