I wasn’t planning on reviewing this. I put out a video here outlining what sorts of people would and wouldn’t like mother! but everyone kept asking me for a score. “Yeah, good opinion… but how would you score it?”
So I realized this can serve as a companion piece, to complement my video. You may think this movie is absolutely stellar. You may think this movie is trash. But if I had to… what would I score this? You’ve already skipped to the bottom huh?
If you’re not familiar, mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as a wife who is trying to make a perfect home, while her poet husband tries to write the perfect piece. What happens next is a metaphorical rollercoaster. Lawrence, our surrogate for Mother Earth, tries to make her home a paradise while her husband (Javier Bardem) invites people in, as he serves as a substitute for God. We then follow a movie that very directly follows the events of the Old Testament, as surrogates for Adam and Eve (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) bring sin and selfishness into their home, slowly chipping away at what Mother Earth has created. The movie doesn’t blatantly tell you this metaphor but it becomes very apparent, very quickly.
Director Darren Aronofsky is known for films that make you tilt your head and think. When I first saw Requiem for a Dream, my world was shook. The Fountain and Black Swan are both fantastic though leave the answers up to you. His only real misfire for me is Noah, which doesn’t deliver a religious allegory on par with the one here in mother!
You can tell that Noah didn’t really fulfill Aronofsky’s story he wanted to tell. It wasn’t enough. So here, he wrote and directed his opus, the entirety of the Bible in a two hour film, including all of his admiration for Mother Earth and resentment of God, or so it seems. He has a lot to say, so those of you looking for a meaty film to try to pick apart and figure out, this movie will leave you thinking for a long time.
Undoubtedly the imagery is what will stick with you. There are moments from this film, both great and traumatic, that are emblazoned on my mind. He’s created some incredible images and when it works… it works.
It’s all brought to life with some incredible performances, with Lawrence delivering a performance that just might nab her another Oscar nomination. She’s pushed to the edge here and her complete 180 is a sight to behold.
What doesn’t work?
The movie, in theory, is right up my alley. Up until the 2/3 mark, I was totally onboard. And then things go sideways. It’s debatable if this is intentional or not, but whatever allegory and metaphor Aronofsky was trying to pull off didn’t work for me in the last third, unraveling altogether. Metaphors blended and split and contradicted themselves. New elements were brought in that I wasn’t quite sure what they were intended for. An especially gruesome moment in the climax left me confused, either a symbol for Christ or a symbol for the environment, trying to maybe be two things at once. There were images that were more confusing than rewarding and it ultimately didn’t work for me.
I don’t dock this movie points for being shocking or bold. I appreciated that it was trying to do something different, but I don’t know if it necessarily did those things well. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s good. The metaphor went off the rails, and even if Aronofsky intended that, it didn’t pay off.
For most folks though, you will walk out of this movie disgusted and upset. The imagery is intense and the movie kicks you in the face for two hours. Aronofsky wants you to feel horrible about how the Earth is being treated, so he takes every opportunity to show just how evil we (as a people) are. Most of you won’t enjoy this or appreciate this, hence why the movie scored an F CinemaScore when it opened. I’m not docking it points for this, but you likely would.
This is an incredibly hard movie to rate and my rating will likely be completely different than yours. Some of you might think this is a masterpiece, while others will walk out halfway through. I found it intriguing and interesting but ultimately it failed. The imagery is visceral, the performances astounding, but the message gets blurred and attempts at metaphor get confusing in the final section, sacrificing storytelling for emotional affect. I appreciate what Aronofsky was trying to do but I don’t think he did it well. My 2 cents.