Mother! (aka Day 6) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Sometimes the biggest of budgets can turn even the most skilled of filmmakers into amateur auteurs. It’s with great sadness to report that writer/director Darren Aronofsky has fallen into this pool with mother! Armed with a $30 million budget and an all-star cast, his picture seems to be airing on the safe side, just in case audiences were too weirded out by the likes of The Fountain and Black Swan, too subtle with the weird. No worries about this film going over any heads as Aronofsky hammers his allegory so bluntly that the exclamation point in the title is too fitting.
Jennifer Lawrence plays the wife of a poet portrayed by the handsome Javier Bardem. They live in a house that is being newly renovated. He’s hoping to finish his greatest writing yet. She wonders why she is seeing visions of Silent Hill around the house, flashing in and out of reality with Cronenberg style grossness. What does it all mean? Don’t worry, all the questions will be answered more open they should be.
Guests start coming to the house as Bardem’s fame builds. Ed Harris plays a dying man that is a fan of the poet, Michelle Pfeiffer his reactive wife. Two of their feuding sons happen upon the house, played by Domhnall and Brian Gleeson, one of them killing the other inside. All of this is happening so fast, including the pregnancy of Lawrence that happens during these events. Bardem’s writing explodes and the house is literally exploding with people, including Kristen Wiig as a herald and Stephen McHattie as a zealot.
Would it really be such a spoiler to reveal that all of this happens to be an allegory for Mother Earth, existing not in reality but within a visceral mental landscape? It shouldn’t when the walls literally break down and everything becomes obvious within the first half of the film. And for the rest of the movie we’re essentially watching weirdness for the hell of it, most if not fully aware what all this means. And is that really what I should be looking forward to in an Aronofsky picture? Action scenes, special effects, and gore? That’s all there is to look forward to when all has been deciphered in record time for a movie by this filmmaker.
I guess to the film’s credits, the effects are kinda neat if they were existing in a much different movie. As I mentioned with Lawrence’s visions, they’re delightfully Cronenberg in their depiction. Spots in the floor turn into gooey passages and toilets become clogged with bloody and disturbing creatures. The house, which contains the entire story because, surprise, it’s supposed to be Earth, turns into a glorious mess of destruction. Walls explode, gunfire erupts, blood spills and savage zealots rip apart all inside. If the story doesn’t go anywhere by the third act, the effects at least get crazier with Lawrence’s labor pains shaking the house, splitting the floors, and setting fire to bodies.
Had it been from any other director, mother would have been considered a decent effort of arthouse entertainment. But it’s shockingly disappointing to say that the acting and special effects are used to prop up a rather flimsy story that makes a statement as overly bold as a PSA for the kids. I suppose the poster is not too shabby with its painterly quality, but I don’t think I can look at it the same way again after the clever meme of it being pasted on a cereal box with the title “Oops! All Allegory.”