Creative to a fault
Mother! is a tough film for me to review. For those who don't know, the purpose of this blog and my reviews has always been to try and provide a casual moviegoers critique on the latest Hollywood film. Now, admittedly that becomes increasingly difficult to do when you've reviewed about 350 films in just over 4 years, (wow I didn't know I could be that committed to anything!) but with a film like Mother! I feel both sides pulling me in opposite directions. The critic (and I still use that word loosely) in me sees this film and thinks....."Wow. That was another spectacular Darren Aronofsky film. I wonder what it meant? I need to sit here and do nothing but think about this film for the foreseeable and ultimately write my review at 1 AM in the morning when I can't sleep and try and figure out what happened with this film and I will LIKE IT!" (With that bit of aggression at the end too, of course. Also I'm tooooootally not doing that last part) While the casual film-goer in me keeps it simple and is saying....."WHAT THE F*** DID I JUST WATCH?" So which part of me do I listen to? The critic? Or the fan? Why don't we go on this journey together and see who wins, shall we?
First off, let's have the "critic" talk about the good. I love how this film is shot. Yes, we're leading with cinematography here. The entire film is shot from Jennifer Lawrence's perspective, which leads to a discombobulating and disorienting experience when the film kicks it up to eleven, but it's a unique and interesting way to shoot a film, especially one like this. It's as if Aronofsky saw Hardcore Henry and said....I see what you're doing, now let me just make it, well, infinitely better to the point that it would be considered laughable that I just compared these two films. Hey, you never know....he could've said that! In addition to shooting this film from Lawrence's POV, most of the film is shot with headshots and over the shoulders. (A la Les Mis, but also better) That's probably 90% of the film's cinematography. The entire film is also shot inside a single location. That means the film needed to nail the set design, and nail it they did. Thanks to some great sound as well, the house almost feels like a character in and of itself in this film. All of this is like ingredients in a wonderful recipe that makes the film feel INCREDIBLY claustrophobic. At least early on. The tension is there, particularly in the first and second acts, and until the third act I was on the edge of my seat loving every second of this film. Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Domhnall Gleeson are all fantastic. But then the third act happened and this film got WEIRD.
Aaaaaaand that's where the casual moviegoer takes over. This is not my first rodeo with a Darren Aronofsky film. His films are out there. But Mother! is out there even for him. Aronofsky turns this film up to a 15 in the third act and abandons all semblance of sanity and unfortunately loses me in the process. He abandons the feeling of claustrophobia for over-the-top, borderline unnecessary shock value, and went for an uber meta ending that is certainly up for interpretation, I'll give him that, but.....what? What are you trying to do here, man? People say this ending is beautiful because of its ambiguity. It's up to you to decipher it, and there are already a lot of opinions out there for sure about the statement Aronofsky is trying to make here. Because of this I think this film is destined for cult status, which is familiar territory for this director. But for me? I don't mind having to figure things out in a movie, but there's a limit for me and we found said limit here.
Ok, so this part I'm writing in the morning after thinking about this film for most of the night. Mother! is a weird film. It's certainly not for everyone, however if you're the kind of person who's fed up with the constant barrage of Hollywood sequels and reboots and are looking for something unique, creative, and new that a big studio actually put some money behind.....Mother! is for you. I would strongly advise watching some of Aronofsky's previous work if you haven't already before jumping into this one, but it's definitely the most unique film in cinemas right now, and not a bad way to spend a Friday night by any means. Oh! And make sure you've seen The Fountain before you watch this film, because Mother! definitely operates on Fountain rules.
The Critique: The most unique and creative film in cinemas right now, Mother! features beautiful cinematography and great set design, but ultimately falls short of greatness thanks to an incomprehensible final act.
The Recommendation: Here it is. Aronofsky fans will probably love this film like its predecessors, but everyone else? Start with another of his films before moving up to this one. But if you like creativity it is worth seeing!
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6.5/10 Almost Good
Tried to find a middle ground there but if anything the critic won out there
Oscar Talk: I think there's a chance this film gets a few shout-outs from the Academy when January rolls around. There's potential here for Hollywood's favorite poster child, Jennifer Lawrence, to receive another nomination for acting, but I'm not sure if that's gonna happen or not. Also look for potential nominations in set design and cinematography!