Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to crafting polarizing pieces of film. As the visionary behind works like Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and even Noah, Aronofsky has a profound way of both dazzling and alienating select audiences. But perhaps none of his oeuvre has divided critics and moviegoers quite like his latest ambitious feat, Mother!, a dark and spiraling journey into madness and creation.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as the wife of a world renowned writer (Javier Bardem). But as she works tirelessly to restore his childhood home to the exact proportions from before it tragically burned to the ground, her husband can’t seem to find the inspiration he needs to create his next great masterpiece. However, when a strange cast of unexpected visitors (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive at their home, the ensuing chaos leads to a chain of events that send the writer’s career to even greater heights, which begin to threaten the sanctity of their marriage.
Equal parts bold and absurd, Aronsky’s Mother! rings familiar to the recent adapted work of another ambitious filmmaker, Ben Wheatley. Wheatley’s High-Rise serves as a metaphor for societal breakdown and anarchy in a lawless skyscraper where the higher the floor, the more power and wealth. Similarly, Mother! has much to say about the deterioration of society and structure. But where Wheatley’s effort unapologetically prides itself on the foolish lunacy of its story, Mother! half-heartedly masks the same goal with mystery and intrigue. And when Aronofsky finally reveals his hand, the bravado has already begun to wear thin. Mother! stands as a periodically gripping tale with committed performances from a rangy and impressive cast. Yet, much like the chintzy exclamation point thrown at the end of the film’s title, Mother! is as subtle as a sledge-hammer, mercilessly dragging the viewer to a far-off finish line that provides very little in terms of a reward when all is said and done.
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