I know someone who said that mother! was a movie that he warned people against seeing because of its subject matter and wondered if it should even be made. And then, I know people who fell in love with the film, lavishing it with praise. Still, others were shocked by its violence or upset by its biblical imagery. Me? I thought it was fucking hilarious.
After 2014’s Noah, Aronofsky was working on a children’s film (!) when he came up with the idea for this film. During that process, he came up with the idea for this film, writing the screenplay in 5 days. He claims that the film is “a psychological freak-out. You shouldn’t over-explain it.” But that doesn’t mean that people didn’t fall all over themselves trying to!
Star Jennifer Lawrence — also Aronofsky’s muse during filming — Lawrence claimed that the film as an allegory that “depicts the rape and torment of Mother Earth. I represent Mother Earth; Javier, whose character is a poet, represents a form of God, a creator; Michelle Pfeiffer is an Eve to Ed Harris’s Adam, there’s Cain and Abel and the setting sometimes resembles the Garden of Eden.”
Sure. That works.
Or it could be about the environment and how we’re killing it.
Or it could be about what it’s like to be a creator and see your work destroyed.
Or it could be a cover version of Rosemary’s Baby that gets way too out of control.
Or you could see it like I did, a movie that somehow got into the hearts and minds of the movie intelligentsia and demanded an explanation when you can see that it wears its narrative beats and allegories on its bloody sleeve. At one point — spoilers if you made it this far — I said, once the baby is born, that’s the end of the Old Testament and there will be a break in the action and then they’ll start eating the baby like it’s Holy Communion. I’m certain that folks were really upset by this scene (my used copy from Family Video has a WARNING – NO RENTAL UNDER 18 sticker), but it’s almost like a punchline. Or I’m insane. Probably.
But then why is Ed Harris a doctor? Why do we spend so much time in the laundry room? Why do vaginal openings show up in Ed’s back (yes, he’s Adam and that could be where his rib was taken from, I get it, I get it) and the floor? Oh the questions mother! will make you ask and immediately regret for putting any thought behind a movie which had to have been a piss take.
This is a movie that wants to be an allegory and then wants to be a narrative film. Like — why does 911 answer the phone like this is in the real world when we’ve already accepted that mother is Mother Nature? And why does God need a starship (sorry, I wanted to get a Star Trek V: The Final Frontier reference into this).
What’s with that yellow water? Oh, that’s just a reference to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. Of course. We all knew that.
While the film had generally positive responses from critics, it got a cinema score of an F*, which suggests that the film goes out of its way to upset audiences. When confronted by these numbers — and diminishing box office returns — Aronofsky blamed moviegoers’ rejection of science, saying, “You have other people who basically believe in the power of an iPhone that they can communicate to 35 million people in a blink of an eye, yet they don’t believe in science in other ways. We wanted to make a punk movie and come at you. And the reason I wanted to come is because I was very sad and I had a lot of anguish and I wanted to express it.”
Incredibly, IMDB reports that Paramount canceled the upcoming Friday the 13th film in order to move ahead with this film. I have no idea why both of those movies couldn’t exist in the same universe — other than the fact that this film was originally due to come out on October 13.
I love that the director wrote a letter to audiences before the film came out. With phrases like “From this primordial soup of angst and helplessness, I woke up one morning and this movie poured out of me like a fever dream” and “I can’t fully pinpoint where this film all came from. Some came from the headlines we face every second of every day, some came from the endless buzzing of notifications on our smartphones, some came from living through the blackout of Hurricane Sandy in downtown Manhattan, some came from my heart, some from my gut. Collectively it’s a recipe I won’t ever be able to reproduce, but I do know this serving is best drunk as a single dose in a shot glass. Knock it back. Salute!” this letter is full of as much pretension as the film and made me giggle just as hard.
Has there ever been a film that equates the Great Flood with an improperly braced sink and the struggle of home repair? No. There sure hasn’t, up until now.
In case you didn’t get that Javier Bardem was God when he says, “I am I” and that the end of the world was what we saw at the end by Patti Smith singing The End of the World, well, then now you do.
This is the kind of movie that people will rent on Netflix and tell all of their friends not to watch. Or they’ll be shocked. Or they’ll fall asleep (the last ten minutes of this film were a Bataan death march of me battling against ennui and boredom). Is it the most shocking film ever, one that sends millennials crying into their blogs? Dude. In a world where A Serbian Film, The Man Behind the Sun and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom exist — fuck, any number of grindhouse faves like Dr. Butcher, M.D., The New York Ripper and Cannibal Holocaust fit the bill — this film is a trifle. I just love that we’re insulated ourselves from culture and art attacking us that we can be upset by such a glancing blow.
Should you watch it? Man, don’t ask me what to do. Decide for yourself.
*Only 19 movies have received this score so far. They are:Alone in the Dark, The Box, Bug, Darkness, The Devil Inside, Disaster Movie, Doctor T and the Women, Eye of the Beholder, Fear Dot Com, I Know Who Killed Me, In the Cut, Killing Them Softly, Lost Souls, Lucky Numbers, mother!, Silent House, Solaris, The Wicker Man and Wolf Creek.