One of the problems with this film is that the 5 dollar Thursday threshold at the cinema is now 6 dollars. The bar has been raised and not just any twisted film can catapult over it. The other problem is that Mother! hits the same note again and again. No doubt Aronofsky is the dark prince of allegoric cinema but as an audience member it feels like a hammer is pounding your skull over and over —in the same place. That’s his point. You may also like the motorik of modern electronic dance music. If so, you may like this film.
There are a lot of truly disturbing and plain old disgusting things in Mother!. And frankly, that’s what I expected. What surprised me was that the build up of the house (that the entire movie was shot in) having a supernatural life of its own never pays off. The film itself is extremely claustrophobic and nausea inducing. Mother! makes Dunkirk feel like the aerial shot of Maria frolicking on a hilltop alpine meadow at the beginning of The Sound of Music. And the intensity doesn’t let up. But there are a lot of gimmicky “Boo!” moments. And the flavor of the film, being that it lacks scope, is overbearingly literary. It certainly feels like an adaptation from a novel, whether or not it is. However, this film really does take you on a tour of the bad acid trip that is Aronofsky’s imagination. There certainly is horror, torture, evil, pain and suffering in the world and he has no problem reminding you of that fact, even if you were hoping to escape it for a few hours.
One thing that gets on my nerves though is hearing protesters chanting “The People United / Will Never Be Defeated” in Spanish as part of a cacophony of chaos, looting and destruction that is going on in the house. It takes a lot of gall for a white guy writer/director to lump in legit protesters with an unruly mob. What has Aronofsky himself ever had to take to the streets to protest? Is ICE raiding his family at a Motel 6 in Phoenix because employees think they may not be citizens? That’s America today. “The weekly newspaper reported that federal immigration agents arrested at least 20 people at two Motel 6 locations in the Phoenix area between February and August. Motel employees told the New Times they regularly delivered guest lists to ICE.” — Source: CNN from the story, “Motel 6 says it will stop sharing guest lists with ICE”. It just reveals to me that in his mind fighting for your rights like people like Cesar Chavez did, is just a confusing mess to him. Though I am sure he has his favorite Mexican joint in Brooklyn and some of his best friends are Latino. Sure they are. If you look at the Latino and people of color representation in the film, it’s especially lame. On the other hand, no one really gets off the hook. But knowing Aronofsky, I wouldn’t expect it. I suppose he walks on water and heals the sick in his spare time.
With all that said, this review will end in a similar vein to my Lucky Logan review. I thought it was pretty bad but if you can overlook a lot of things you might like a story about good ol’ boys, never meanin’ no harm. In this case, if cannibalism, cult ritual, random symbolic blood, fever dream lapidary and just open wounds in general and extreme close-ups in particular do it for you, then this just may be the film you have been waiting for. In the end of course, the film is trying to make a great point about the cruelty of self-indulgence. It is ironic that Aronofsky thinks he is the one to make that point.