Monday, October 09, 2017

Mother! (2017)

Truly, I have much sympathy for the people who already hate this one, who walked out, demanded their money back, picked fights with policemen, whatever it took to shake it off, and have spent their time since denigrating it in no uncertain terms in comments threads everywhere. Mother! is pretty silly stuff, and that's evidently by design—a loud existential allegorical chamber drama handclap tricked out like horror but behaving more like a dweeby bookworm accidentally dosed with hallucinogens. Come to think of it, that might be verging on SOP for director and writer Darren Aronofsky by this point. He's done some great stuff before, notably Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, but he often misses. For example, no one in Mother! has names beyond what is given in the credits: Mother, Him, Man, Woman, Younger Brother, etc. What does that tell you? (It gets worse too: Cupbearer, Damsel, Consoler, Bumbler, Philanderer, many more.) The movie's inflection points are equal parts Amityville Horror, Day of the Locust, and Fraud, er, I mean, Freud-as-shallowly-construed (Freud and mothers, you know), with a dash of Rosemary's Baby. Aronofsky has given us some silly stuff before (Pi, possibly The Fountain, parts of Noah) but this one really takes the cake. Jennifer Lawrence is a young wife living in remote isolation with a poet, Him (Javier Bardem), who is suffering from writer's block. She spends her time working on restoring the mansion. Then people start showing up, and Him invites them to stay, one and all: Man (Ed Harris), Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), Herald (Kristen Wiig), many others, dozens or hundreds. This is where it reminded me of The Day of the Locust, toward the end. At many points, Mother! is above average in showing the plight of an introvert unexpectedly confronted with socially aggressive people and ambiguous situations. Mother! is often like a nightmare. But it's often like many other things too: the creative process, the Bible, climate change, the Syrian crisis, the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, certain Beatles songs played backward, and of course celebrity cannibalism. Very many very big and important things. Yet when the connecting concept is finally revealed in full with the closing scenes, it's so ridiculous, this thing about a crystal, I felt my face burning with embarrassment for everyone involved, including myself for seeing it. Is Aronofsky being sarcastic about such neat and tidy resolutions overlaid with veneers of intellectual engagement (one feels philosophers or other great thinkers lurking in the wings)—or is it just stupid? Those are the kinds of unpleasant questions Mother! left me with.

Of course, I went into it as blind as I could, my usual practice, and later found out Aronofsky himself has claimed his intent was to make an explicit (if compressed) allegory of the Bible, fore and aft, meaning Old Testament and New Testament. In many ways that is picking up where Noah, his last picture, left off. I confess that Aronofsky's pictures sometimes don't fully clarify for me the first time. I don't like it and then on second viewing I do—a lot. I meant to take that second look at Mother! and get back to you. I still do. But let my reluctance give you some idea about the experience of seeing this movie. I'm in no hurry. It dripped with arch theatrical pretension and I really worry that won't change.

No comments:

Post a Comment