Director Daren Aronofsky is known for his stunning visuals and eccentric approach to storytelling – see: Black Swan, The Wrestler, and Noah. Aronofsky’s latest film, Mother!, may be his boldest film to date.
Trying to explain Mother! without spoiling the 1,000 crazy things that happen is a challenge. The short plot synopsis: A woman (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a secluded house with her husband (Javier Bardem). After a visit by a stranger (Ed Harris) and his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), things start to spiral out of control. Saying things get out of control is putting it nicely, things get crazy.
Along the journey from quaint married life to “WTF is happening?”, there are a few reveals about the couple’s past and a more information about the mysterious strangers that showed up on their doorstep.
If Mother! was a Rosemary’s Baby knockoff, a new twist on the classic horror The Omen, or even something along the lines of Sound of My Voice, it would be a lot more enjoyable. Instead, it’s a package of visually interesting scenes and bizarre (and sometimes disturbing) imagery strung together. It’s unconventional storytelling that bypasses a cohesive story for a package of vignettes full of metaphors that rely on self interpretation. I’m sure they’ll be people who wax poetically about how it’s a metaphor for blah blah blah. Sure it its….it’s also a storytelling structure that’s not compelling.
There’s a sequence in the third act that’s literally Jennifer Lawrence dizzily spinning from room to room, seeing one violent thing after another. It’s as if Aronofsky was filming an intense thriller until his edible kicked in during the third act.
The performances are fine, but none of the cast really stands out besides Michelle Pfeiffer. The movie isn’t about any individual performance or even what the cast does as an ensemble. It’s about the metaphors and imagery and how they translate to the audience. It makes the movie perfect to discuss in a film class or with a group of friends.
Mother! is easily the biggest chance Aronofsky has taken with a film. It’s has a great cast, interesting visuals, but a story that leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a film general movie goers will loathe, yet cinephiles will have fun dissecting ever scene and metaphor to find the film’s deeper meanings. It’s going to be a tough sell come Oscar season and an even tougher sell for audiences this fall.