One of the most controversial films of 2017, MOTHER! defines a love/hate film experience and its most divisive.
While a few found the film to be a brilliant masterpiece, most thought it was boring, repetitive trash.
For about 8 total minutes sprinkled throughout its over 2 hour running time, I would say its fascinating and visually thrilling. That leaves me 113 minutes that finds me solidly in the "this is a mess" camp.
The pretentious onslaught starts with our characters names. Jennifer Lawrence is "Mother", usually referred to as "her" by her troubled artist husband "Him" played by Javier Bardem.
As the story begins to unfold (slowly, ever so slowly) we watch her support him every way she can, rebuilding a large home in the middle of nowhere as he plays the moody, stagnant artist who seems unable to create.
Soon, Ed Harris arrives as the stranger "Man" and Michelle Pfieffer as his wife, "Woman", invading the privacy of their home as Him welcomes them and encourages them to stay as long as they'd like, with complete disregard for Her and her opinions.
That's minor abuse compared to the graphic punishment that Her/Mother will receive later.
Soon Man and Woman's two sons arrive.
There's a murder, then suddenly a gathering and then a seemingly unending mob of people that descend on their home.
Writer/Director Darren Aronofsky has created fascinating, challenging films before. "Black Swan" and "The Wrestler" certainly qualify, but they had protagonists that had a measure of humanity.
As the mob grows and the film spins completely out of control, I began to assume that the story is an allegory for what Aronofsky sees as the collective destruction of the planet, or perhaps man's penchant for violence against each other.
It's heavy handed, with sparks of intelligence. In the culmination, as the masses descend on the house, Mother goes from room to room, with each opened door revealing a different atrocity. Some are fascinating, most are brilliantly staged and shot, but its repetition eventually lost me and I was reminded of Shelley Duvall's manic dash through the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining", where each room held a different, disturbing specter.
What Aronofsky puts Mother (and Jennifer Lawrence) through in this film plays more like a test of endurance than entertainment.
Mother's pregnancy and delivery of her baby only brings more ignorance from "Him" and more horror for us as the viewer, lowering the bar into depravity and gore that revolts more than it scares.
Aronofsky spells out his allegory here in the final moments ( no surprise for me, I figured out his intent well before the conclusion) but it plays with a strange blend of self satisfaction in his "genius" and a depressingly dark view of humanity.
I have a huge appreciation for well-written characters and slow developing stories that take me somewhere unexpected. Last week, I gave "The Phantom Thread" an A+, but MOTHER! isn't slow, its boring. It isn't brilliant, it's a mess.
Harris is completely wasted and the incredibly strong and fearless Lawrence is badly miscast as a woman with seemingly no self-preservation.
Oh Yes, I KNOW that's the point, that Mother Earth cannot defend herself, that point is hammered down again & again with the subtlety of a "Tom and Jerry" cartoon.
If David Lynch and Terrence Malick had lobotomies and you gave them $33 million to make a movie, this is probably very close to what it would turn out like.
Sunk under the weight of its own arrogance, MOTHER! gets a repulsive F.
Self indulgent garbage in its purest form = garbage.