Director: Darren Aronofsky
Screenwriter: Darren Aronofsky
Runtime: 121 mins.
Australian release date: 14 September 2017
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 5 September 2017.
Darren Aronofsky comes up with some wonderfully original ideas but his Achilles heel is the regular inability to complete them successfully, particularly when working from his own screenplays; his latest film mother! is yet another example of this problem. The film’s strong and intriguing first half builds you up and grips you but the latter half lets you down badly, becoming increasingly bizarre and unsatisfying as this Creation metaphor loses its way.
In a remote home in the middle of an unknown nowhere (literally – nothing seems to exist beyond the property’s tree-lined boundaries), a couple referred to only as Him (Javier Bardem), a poet suffering from writer’s block, and Mother (Jennifer Lawrence), who’s busy renovating their rambling home, are disturbed by the arrival of a strange visitor, Man (Ed Harris), and before long Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) joins them. As more and more people arrive, Him seems to become energized by the unexpected guests - who treat him as something of a messiah - and accommodates them, much to the increasing consternation of Mother. The house, which she has lovingly restored, is overrun and the scene becomes increasingly apocalyptic.
Aronofsky’s characters seem to be cyphers or represent Christian allegories as the situation in the couple’s Eden careers out of control and chaos reigns. There are moments when you feel you’re watching a millennium re-make of Rosemary’s Baby as the tension rises and negative forces take over, but it doesn’t quite gel and therein lies the difference to Polanski. A good thriller/horror keeps you guessing but shouldn’t leave you thinking, ‘WTF?’
Aronofsky claims that he doesn’t want his audiences to sit in the middle, that he wants them to react either positively or negatively and he’s certainly achieved his wish with mother! A saving grace is the use of such a strong cast. Still, Aronofsky’s script borders on coming across as pretentious self-indulgence. It’s an oddity, given that Aronofsky was “raised culturally Jewish,” that there are so many references to the Christian story here, right down to the rite of Communion and the myth of the Creation. Perhaps working on Noah influenced him? mother! comes with a lot of marketing hype and uses the by-line, “You have no idea where this movie will take you.” For once, that’s ‘truth in advertising!’