MOMMY AND DADDY ARE FIGHTING!
Darren Aronovsky’s mother! Says This is Seriously Fucked Up
Films have always tried to show us our fears and comment on what is threatening to the world; the good ones usually do it with veiled, nuanced archetypal drama, while the bad ones are called horror movies. Okay, I’m sorry. That was a lousy joke and I think a very bad beginning to this article. Let’s try again. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro and stuff. Ahem…Darren Aronovsky’s mother! tries to balance…seeks to…fails at…reaches for….Oh, sod it, there is no way I can write anything remotely film-critic-y when it comes to this HolyShitYouAreFuckingKiddingMe movie.
But, don’t dismay, at least about this. Darren Aronovsky’s mother! is precisely the film we need to see right now, and that is perhaps one of the reasons why it has wrung such intense emotion and polarized opinions (and the most entertaining reviews I’ve read in years, whatever their conclusions) from everyone who has seen or critiqued it. But before I begin (ha), let me make clear I agree with each and every one of you. To my mind, mother! (with her infernal exclamation point) is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant AND revolting AND outrageous AND nearly-irredeemable films I have ever squirmed through. But perhaps not for the reasons you suspect.
A few more personal reveals before I continue (which I usually dislike in film commentary and try to avoid, but dammit this one requires some context where I’m concerned). I’m, uhhh, not a Believer, if you catch my drift. I feel that the influence of certain sets of beliefs (that, again, I don’t share) has caused extreme damage to an untold number of lives and is potentially fatal, now, as we speak, to our planet…and I am in near-continual shock and awe that we so blindly and blithely careen towards our collective demise for lack of just thinking things through and finding conscious, reality-based ways to rise above our fear of death to clear the way for life, glorious life. So there’s that.
I also despise gratuitous violence (the reason I usually don’t enjoy the horror genre), and I REALLY hate it when a film/director preaches. With mother!, however, I feel both are necessary, given what I think Aronovsky is trying to accomplish. And I ardently support his message (at the least the message I think he is delivering). In fact, the more I consider mother! the more I am convinced that it is ALL message and nothing else about it really matters, and the message is this: We’re living in a nightmare story we created for ourselves. And, this nightmare will literally end our existence unless we wake up, and fast.
You see, I agree with that.
The plot (Spoilers? You’re joking, right?) is as well-known as it possibly could be. Jennifer Lawrence plays Mother, who lives with her husband Him, played by Javier Bardem, a poet suffering from, let’s just say, “Creation Anxiety.” They coexist in a VERY OLD isolated house in which she is trying to build a “paradise.” They are soon visited by a Man and his Wife, played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, who quickly alter the mellow vibe, if you will, of Mother’s, umm, “world.” Next come Man and Wife’s two sons, who fight each other until…need I say more?
Before long, people of all ages and races are flocking to the house/world/paradise (whatever), enamored and obsessed with Him, and as the population expands so does the group-dysfunction, until it becomes literally, quite literally, as in textbook you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it, insane. Him, with his own addiction to attention i.e. worship also growing exponentially, is unable or unwilling (just “un,” basically) to protect his wife/woman/partner from the escalating madness, much less control his followers or halt the inevitable baaad outcome. When Mother predictably (you’re paying attention, right?) gives birth to a son, Him proudly offers the infant to his crazed and very unruly minions, who immediately murder and cannibalize the innocent child.
Our hoped-for Shero, battered and despondent and enraged and wailing with existential pain, then goes full-on “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” and rushes downstairs, to the basement, where there is a very menacing furnace, and proceeds to blow up the entire shebang, err, house, err, world. Him, wouldn’t ya know, is the only survivor, and he is remarkably nonplussed by this turn of events. He simply finds his next “poetic” inspiration in the nothingness of the ashes of this latest attempt to justify his own existence.
Not to be in-Coen-herent here, but, what do I gotta do, draw you a roadmap?
That mother! is a Biblical allegory is beyond obvious to anyone who paid attention in Sunday school for five minutes. I think that is ALL this film seeks to be, or needs to be for that matter, and for anyone sickened by its graphic, nauseating, assaulting, apocalyptic imagery I suggest you consider the narrative it derives from. This is only a film, brothers and sisters, but what it attempts to show us about our beliefs and their consequences is painfully, heartbreakingly, disgustingly urgent.
Is this a film review? Did I “like” mother!? Do I think it’s a good film, or a bad one? Do I think Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most exciting actors of the last 20 years and Michelle Pfeiffer deserves an Oscar nomination? Do I “recommend” it? Who the fuck knows with this movie?!?!?!
I can only relate to this: mother! is not here to entertain us, offer us a glimmer of hope, show us another way, or do anything we’ve come to think movies are FOR these days, but to shock us awake in any way possible from the truly dangerous story we are telling ourselves about ourselves. Aronovsky is using our collective nightmare to wake us from our collective nightmare. Because this is definitely THAT, folks. This time, though, the “story” is real.
This time, the ending is really, really real.