Theater Thoughts

Theatrical Thoughts: mother!

September 15, 2017

Reviewer: John Carpenter

Release date: 9/15/2017
121 Mins/Rated R

From its beautiful opening shot until it’s final hurrah, “mother!” takes viewers on a journey of horrific enlightenment and painful self-discovery. This is tough to see, as writer/director Darren Aronofsky seems to throw characters and situations onscreen at an exponential level creating chaos amidst the multi-interpretable story. That has always been the case with Aronofsky though. He does not shy away from narratives and fantasy elements that challenge viewers and create discussion long after the final credits roll. Here it feels deeply personal though. mother! Is one of those rare situations where knowing the tabloid drama about a person kind of pays off. It adds a nice, pretty bow on top of a gristly package filled with selfish actions, regret, self-awareness and the sad realization that not all of the demons may have been exorcised just yet. Throughout the whole experience is a lesson in superb acting. Admittedly, early in the film Jennifer Lawrence seemed to be dialing it in. Having seen her swing for the fences in other performances, her character, simply known as ’mother,’ was very reserved. She walked around, doe eyed and passive. This is all an illusion. Yes mother is very submissive to her famous poet husband Him (Javier Bardem), but it all comes from a place of love. With this subtle approach, Lawrence sets up the character arc perfectly. As man (Ed Harris) and soon after, woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) enter the scene, we can feel the angst of mother beginning to build. She takes great pride in the home that she has caringly and meticulously rebuilt for Him after a fire that occurred before her time in his life. At first, the attacks roll in, but seem to originate from a good place. When an invite for man to sleep over is extended by Him, mother is not consulted. It is in the name of hospitality though. Him seems to be a compassionate person, but it becomes increasingly clearer that this compassion is merely selfishness. He is more concerned with fans fawning over him than meeting the needs of his life partner. This becomes more and more obvious as the seemingly innocent acts of hospitality spiral into some sort of ‘politically correct’ home invasion. This is when not only mother is under fire, but the house she has slaved and bled over as well. This is Aronofsky peeling another layer off the story to slowly reveal the core. Plenty of additional layers remain though. Religious allegories, love, betrayal, hate and forgiveness all pop up – separately and together. It is the emotional equivalent of what mother experiences throughout the film, as the world seems to flood into her house.

The waters may seem murky at times, but viewers need this journey. By time the story wraps up, and the final shot gives that ‘ah ha moment,’ it is tough not to sit and reflect as the only song in the entire movie plays over the credits. Even the lyrics in this song pave the road for an interpretation about how people who love one another interact, all while discovering the ‘names’ of each character lean more toward a biblical stance regarding the story. There are no proper names, just roles. Javier Bardem’s ‘Him’ is the only capitalized character. This is what makes mother! so special. Name another movie where the closing credits all but force a viewer to long for an opportunity to rewatch the film and discover other Easter eggs and interpretations. The movie will hit people in different ways and certainly deserves a place among Aronofsky’s best work.

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