Mother! is writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s latest. The title says it all. Aronofsky loves the female protagonist-slash-victim. In Black Swan it was Oscar and Golden Globe winner Natalie Portman. Requiem for a Dream got Ellen Burstyn accolades. In The Wrestler Marisa Tomei picked up nominations and raves for her work.
Jennifer Lawrence gets the call here and gives an award-worthy performance as the emotionally tortured Mother. She’s up, she’s down, she’s on a real life rollercoaster and does it brilliantly. Javier Bardem is her self-absorbed husband simply identified as Him. His smile is winning, his sincerity questionable, and Bardem plays it perfectly.
Small parts from Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kristen Wiig are chilling.
You’ll love the acting but not the plot. You won’t like the characters. Even Lawrence’s sympathetic Mother isn’t connectable. You won’t like what happens to her or Bardem’s Him. Or their unlikable guests.
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Ironically, it won’t matter. Aronofsky’s Mother! will rivet you to your seat.
The plot is pretty basic. Characters Mother and Him live in a beautiful old house. It’s cleverly laid out and maze-like, and sits in a field in the middle of nowhere as the perfect metaphor for their marriage. He’s a famous poet who is in the throes of serious writer’s block. She’s quiet and insecure. Before he met and married Mother, the house burned to the ground.
A visitor done by Harris somehow finds them. He’s a big fan of Him and his poetry. The guy is sick and is dying. In spite of Mother’s reservations, Him invites the man to stay. The next day the visitor’s wife — played by Pfeiffer — shows up. The woman, and again against Mother’s wishes, stays.
They’re the worst possible guests, and Mother is constantly picking up after them. She hates them and wants them gone. He does not. Things escalate from there. Maybe a better description is all hell breaks loose and — in a way — it is a form of hell for the reclusive Mother.
Exaggeration is another good description of the film. This is where you will struggle with Aronofsky’s story. Hour one is intense and even interesting, but hour two is all over the place. However, in hour two — even when things rapidly go askew — you cannot look away. Do not want to look away. Are afraid to look away. The chaos grows more intense and more insane frame by frame.
That’s the beauty of Aronofsky’s film — if you can put it that way. Part horror movie, part psychological drama, this is an intense trip into total madness. Aronofsky ratchets up the tension by using handheld cameras locked on Lawrence’s face in most of the film’s scenes. The constant invasion of her personal space is uncomfortable.
The film itself is uncomfortable, but also compelling. Once the movie starts, that discomfort is almost addictive. I totally recommend the first hour of Mother!, thus I’ll recommend the movie. Hour two — as noted — is uncomfortable in a different way. The chaos grows tedious and the discomfort comes from having to sit on a hard theater seat and finish the flick.
Movie name: Mother!
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson, Kristen Wiig
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated R for language, violence and nudity. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, The Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.