By MICAH WALKER, Staff Writer
As I was leaving the theater last weekend after seeing mother!, the first thing that came to mind was, “What did I just watch?”
A guy leaving out the same time as me was just as baffled. “Did you understand that at all?” he asked me.
“No” I replied. “I didn’t know what was going on. That was one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen.”
I continued to think about the film for the rest of the night, coming up with different explanations as to why it was so disorienting, especially in its third act. It wasn’t until the next day that I began to see the true meaning of mother! and how well-acted and smartly written it is.
Writer and director Darren Aronofsky is known for sending audiences on a head trip, from his first movie Pi, to Requiem for a Dream, and Black Swan. Mother! is no exception, with many metaphorical meanings placed throughout the movie.
The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Mother (although she’s never called that), a young woman who lives with her older, poet husband played by Javier Bardem. Their place of residence is a rustic, Victorian house in the middle of nowhere. Destroyed in a fire, Lawrence works on restoring their home back to its original state, while Bardem, simply referred to as Him, attempts to overcome his writer’s block to churn out his next great poem.
However, Him soon becomes distracted when an orthopedic surgeon and fan played by Ed Harris unexpectedly shows up at the front door. Pleased to be in the presence of an admirer, the two hit it off and Him invites Harris, only known as Man, to stay the night, despite Mother’s objections.
The next day, Man’s wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, shows up. While the men bond by going on a walk, Woman is the rude houseguest that helps herself to spiked lemonade and follows Mother around the house, asking personal questions along the way. By the time Man’s and Woman’s sons make an appearance, Mother is ready to kick everyone out of the house. She wants to return to her quiet, peaceful life with her husband, crafting their house into a home. But Him ignores her outcries, only concerned with his own celebrity and adoring fans, though Mother is his biggest supporter.
As more and more people begin to show up on the property, Mother tires of being polite. She eventually reaches her breaking point, which leads to an explosive climax.
Lawrence is excellent as Mother. With the majority of the film framing her in close-up or shots from her point of view, the weight of mother! mostly rests in Lawrence’s hands, and she delivers. While the actress has played tough, take-charge characters in the past, her performance as Mother is more subdued-at least in the first half. Lawrence nails the agony of someone losing control as they see their life falling apart right in front of them. Lawrence also makes the audience sympathize with her she deals with a revolving door of unwanted guests, as well as a narcissistic husband who she will never be enough for.
Bardem’s villainous performance is great. The actor portrays Him as an ordinary guy in the beginning, but as the film becomes more chaotic, he reveals the character to be selfish and eventually, malicious. Bardem is able to unveil Him’s true colors: a man that needs constant validation from others, doing everything he can to achieve it.
Michelle Pfeiffer is wickedly delightful in mother!, stealing the few scenes she appears in. Though she doesn’t make for a very pleasant houseguest, it’s entertaining to watch the dynamic between her outspoken personality versus the quietness of Mother.
Though marketed as a straight-up horror movie, mother! is much more than that. Yes, the film has its horror moments, such as the spot of blood on the floor that just won’t go away, and obviously, the houseguests from hell. But it also touches on topics such as marriage, celebrity culture, the environment, and God.
Mother! is definitely not a movie meant to be taken literally. There are many ways to interpret the movie, and that’s what makes it fun. Although mother! may be hard to understand at times, it’s still worth the experience.