Director: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain, Noah, Black Swan)
Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Producers: Scott Franklin, Ari Handel
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 121 min.
If you love your very on-the-nose religious allegories aggressively shoved down your throat for an excruciating two hours, then Mother! is the movie for you! Darren Aronofsky’s latest is a big ol’ parable that’s pretty impossible to miss since instead of wrapping its deeper ideas inside of anything resembling a plot of its own he instead throws it right there on the surface with giant sign posts indicating every little thing that anyone needs for even the most basic viewer to “get it”. Of course it’s also just the kind of obnoxiously “ambitious”, “auteur-driven”, “provocative” feature that will ignite a heavily divisive response with its lovers insisting that the detractors somehow “didn’t get it” even though there’s literally nothing else to it. That’s a big part of the problem. Aronofsky just drowns this beast in his giant allegory (which, yes, could also be an interpretation of the creative process, but isn’t that essentially the same thing? And really there’s too much religion here for it not to be that more than anything), leaving no room for anything else.
Certainly not for even the slightest modicum of character development or dimension, as a talented cast led by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem is criminally underserved by a script that treats their characters as props rather than actual people with inner lives who the audience are supposed to care for. And yet as the deliriously, infuriatingly chaotic final act rages on there’s this odd pull that the movie suddenly wants us to have an investment in these people, but it did absolutely zero groundwork to get us to that point. Ultimately it did zero work to establish practically anything. It’s well and good to work an allegory like this into something, but you have to actually have something there in the first place to work it into and Aronofsky missed the boat on that one. Even more than that he missed the concept of having it all actually mean anything on a grander scheme. Sure, it’s all about religion, but for what purpose? Why does this movie exist? Beats me.
Others who bafflingly love the picture can surely glean out their own satisfying answers for that question and more power to them for finding a way to get any measure of satisfaction out of this ugly and irritating masturbatory slice of filth, but try as I might the only reactions I got out of this haphazard display of an egomaniac director stroking his own arrogance were vehemently negative. If I were able to give Mother! one compliment it would have been that it’s refreshing to see a studio movie that doesn’t feel the need to push out a ton of exposition in its dialogue, but I can’t even applaud it for that as somehow the exposition overload just comes straight out of the plot and direction that whacks your head open with a sledgehammer and just violently shoves its pathetically blunt grade school meanings directly into your open skull.
Whether it’s the gratuitous violence and debauchery (good luck to Lawrence for actually falling for the director during the making of this), the full-on obnoxious anarchy of a filmmaker given complete control and displaying absolutely none in the final act, or the paper thin characterization and allegory on display throughout this nonsense, Mother! is a movie that fails hard early on and somehow only gets worse from there as it stretches on for an agonizing two hours that feels like at least three by the time it mercifully ends with the most predictable, eye-rolling ending of the year. Aronofsky has claimed that this movie is the most similar to Black Swan that he’s made in his career, but the truth is that it more rightly fits alongside the obnoxious aggression, infantile lecturing, and overbearing toxicity of Requiem for a Dream. In that regard, Aronofsky would surely find at least some satisfaction in the fact that I can’t recall the last time a film has made me as angry as this one. You know, the way that a child with not a lot else going on will needlessly attack others in order to get attention.