Monday, September 18, 2017

[Review] mother!

The always provocative Darren Aronofsky returns with mother!, a sweaty and smothering chamber piece that takes the idea of "unwelcome guests" to the next level, and then some.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a couple living in a big fixer-upper house in the middle of nowhere. I'm not going to say they're happy, because there's a notable disconnect between the two, and not just in age. When a flock of strangers (including Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) start randomly piling into their home, the situation goes from uncomfortable to tumultuous to batshit insane.

This thing thrives on unpredictability and the uncanny. It's the type of film that constantly makes you wonder "What the hell is going on?" The overall craft makes it a total sensory experience. It broods - the drab, dimly lit setting comes off like a dungeon, and every creak and knock is amplified, to the point where even just someone appearing around a corner can create a jolt. It pierces - the claustrophobic soundscape is filled with door bells, smoke alarms, phone rings, and teapot whistles that raise the anxiety. It boils - the nasty tension is so thick and steamy that you could slice through it with a box-cutter. It haunts and confounds - hallucinatory and supernatural elements creep in, conveying the impression that something sinister is going down. The plot births so many visual symbols and character allegories that it essentially becomes a demented "I Spy" puzzle.

I pretty much loved everything up until the third act, which is guaranteed to be divisive and discussion-worthy. What we end up with is a chaotic clusterfuck of biblical proportions and worldly ills. But things get so dense, ham-fisted, and over-the-top that my initial investment in the film began to diminish the deeper that it dove. You know in high school when you had that house party and things got out-of-hand and you just wanted everyone to leave? mother! gives you that exact feeling. And you know when you're having a nightmare and you try to yell but nothing comes out? mother! gives you that exact feeling too. In these ways, the film succeeds, for better or worse.

( 7.5/10 )

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  1. It has certain similarities to "Rosemary's Baby," but it definitely ain't a remake. Also, as Zach sez, this film is highly allegorical or symbolic. RB is fairly literal.

  2. Wish I could say I enjoyed anything about this film, but I just didn't. To me, the only things really to appreciate are technical stuff like the sound design (which you captured well) and the cinematography. And I appreciate a film that tries to have ideas, but there wuz nothing appealing to me on the literal level, seeing J-Law mistreated with more and more intensity for two hours. It wuz like watching "The Passion the Christ" again. Good review, tho'.

  3. Thanks for your comment! I definitely don't blame anyone for disliking this film. It's one of *those* ones. I was really into it up until a certain point, but it most likely won't be making my year-end list.

    - Zach