ReelBob: ‘mother!’ ★★★½
By Bob Bloom
Damn you, Darren Aronofsky!
Why can’t you simply make movies that don’t make us think or try to discern their hidden meanings?
Just as “Requiem for a Dream” was about more than drug abuse and “Black Swan” was more than just about ballet, than “mother!” is not just, well, that’s it — the movie is not just about …
The setting for ‘mother!’ is one of those old-fashioned mansion-like houses in the middle of nowhere. It is surrounded by trees, with no roads in or out.
Living there are Him (Javier Bardem), a famous poet struggling to create his next work, and Mother (Jennifer Lawrence), his wife, whose main obsession is restoring the house, which looks as if it was the scene of a battle.
This is one of those movies in which characters have no name because each represents something.
The movie is a thriller with horror overtones. It is one long allegory that stays one step ahead of the audience, even though observant viewers will pick up the clues Aronofsky drops along the way like bread crumbs.
Mother values her privacy. She focuses on two things: renovating the house, to which she has a very peculiar relationship, and seeing to her man’s every need.
Him is rather distant, despite continually professing his love to his wife. He is centered solely on his work, ignoring her needs and wishes.
The couple is unexpectedly visited by a Man (Ed Harris) who, though a stranger, Him invites in, offers him a bed for the night as the two begins drinking and sharing stories.
The next day, Woman (a grandly pushy and acerbic Michelle Pfeiffer — giving one of the best performances of her long career — shows up. She, too, is invited to stay.
Woman is the houseguest from hell, asking Mother very personal questions, breaking things and just getting in the way.
The movie continues escalating from the real to the surreal to some unsettling and horrific images as more and more people descend on the house to interact and touch the poet.
So, what can we take from all of this? That for Him, art is everything and that he must feed off the adoration of the masses, who are demanding and literally devour everything that an artist creates.
“mother!” is one of those movies where you know from the outset that, while the world on screen may appear normal, something is definitely off-kilter.
Lawrence gives a very strong performance. Aronofsky frames her in several close-ups as well as point-of-view shots where she is continually moving from room to room, as if always looking for something she misplaced, but never finding it.
It is a very textured piece as Lawrence lets on that — deep down — she knows something the audience does not.
Bardem also is riveting, flashing a big smile with eyes that seem to always shine, especially when others are around to praise him.
He is the epitome of the self-centered artist who gives lip service to his concern for his wife, but really cares only for his work.
The film’s last reel is most chaotic and disturbing, and may turn off some viewers.
“mother!” can be seen as a story of an artist who craves inspiration but once possessing and using it, replaces it for the veneration of the mob who, as he realizes too late, demands more than he can — and is willing — to give.
Or, it may mean something else entirely. I guess you will have to see “mother!” to formulate your own interpretation.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
3½ stars out of 4
(R), graphic and bloody violence, disturbing and horrific images, language, sexual content, nudity