Bethlehem Press

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Movie Review: ‘mother!’

Friday, September 29, 2017 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Perhaps no movie in 2017 has been as controversial upon its release as “mother!” Yes, we’ll honor the conceit of the noncapitalized title and exclamation point.

No, that’s not what upset folks with director Darren Aronofsky’s metaphorical take on motherhood, misogyny and the mass media.

As with Aronofsky’s previous directorial efforts (“Noah,” 2014; Oscar nomination, director, “Black Swan,” 2010; “The Wrestler,” 2008; “The Fountain,” 2006; “Requiem for a Dream,” 2000; “Pi,” 1998), “mother!” goes in unpredictable directions in the screenplay that Aronofsky wrote. That’s not unusual. After, all prehistoric monsters were part of the mix in “Noah.” They obviously missed the boat.

Aronofsky doesn’t miss the boat. He seems preoccupied with getting inside the heads of his characters and determining what makes them tick, or at least what gets them ticked-off.

Among the generically-named characters, Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is the dutiful, if doting, wife of Him (Javier Bardem). The home they live in is a sprawling white Victorian mansion that’s a real fixer-upper, and Mother is a real fixer-upper. She’s as meticulous in selecting paint samples for the walls (she chooses a warm butterscotch color) as she is in preparing her husband’s breakfast. The husband is a poet whose muse has flown the coop.

Into this domestic bliss arrives a Man (Ed Harris) and his wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer). The poet-husband has befriended the Man, who needs a place to stay. His wife later shows up, as do their sons, Younger Brother (Brian Gleeson) and Oldest Son (Domhnall Gleeson).

And then all heck breaks loose.

Jennifer Lawrence (Oscar, actress, “Silver Linings Playbook,” 2012) gives another amazing performance. Her facial reactions, her startled eyes, her composure (to a point) in the face of chaos is remarkable. Aronofsky films her lovingly (to a point).

Javier Bardem (Oscar, supporting actor, “No Country For Old Men,” 2008) gives another powerful performance. His huge eyes and large mouth can shift from meditative to menace in the blink of an eye.

Ed Harris (Oscar nominations, supporting actor, “The Hours,” 2002; “Truman Show,” 1998; “Apollo 13,” 1995; actor, “Pollock,” 2000) is wackily off-kilter, as is Michelle Pfeiffer (Oscar nominations, actress, “Love Field,” 1992; “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” 1989; supporting actress, “Dangerous Liaisons,” 1988), who goes from nasty to nastier in seconds flat. Kristen Wiig has a small role as a publisher.

The early scenes seem to be filmed in available light, with hand-held camera, and using extreme closeups of faces (especially that of Jennifer Lawrence), giving the movie-goer a sense of immediacy and intimacy.

There are several mysterious occurrences and objects and effects that flow through the film with unsettling ease. None is explained nor, perhaps explainable. This is one creepy house that evokes creepy emotions. The wife wants to turn it into paradise. Instead, it becomes a nightmare.

Thematically, the film delves into Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen King and Luis Buñuel territory, and, more specifically, plot-lines from “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) and “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

“mother!” is one of those films that will spark endless debate, even anger and outrage.

“mother!,”MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language; Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery; Run time: 2 hrs., 1 min.; Distributed by Warner Bros.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“mother!” was filmed in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, using 16mm film.

Box Office, Sept. 22:“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” was it, opening at No. 1 with an impressive $39 million, putting “It” at No. 2, dropping one place from No. 1 two-weeks straight, with a solid $30 million, $266.3 million, three weeks, keeping “The Lego Ninjago Movie” opening at No. 3, with $21.2 million. 4. “American Assassin,” shot down two places, $6.3 million, $26.2 million, two weeks. 5. “Home Again” slipped one spot, $3.3 million, $22.3 million, three weeks. 6. “mother!” dropped three places, $3.3 million, $13.4 million, two weeks. 7. “Friend Request,” $2.4 million, opening. 8. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” dropped three slots, $1.9 million, $73.6 million, six weeks. 9. “Stronger,” $1.7 million, opening. 10. “Wind River” flowed down three places, $1.3 million, $31.7 million, eight weeks.

Unreel,Sept. 29:“American Made,”R: Doug Liman directs Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, and Jesse Plemons in the Action-Biography-Thriller. A pilot works for the CIA as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

“Flatliners,”PG-13: Niels Arden Oplev directs Nina Dobrev, Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and James Norton in the Sci-Fi Thriller. In the remake of the 1990 movie, five medical students stop their hearts for short periods, triggering near-death experiences.

“Lucky,”No MPAA Rating: John Carroll Lynch directs Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, and Ed Begley Jr. in the Drama about the spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes