When I was attending university, in my Writing Poetry class, students used to get into groups and discuss metaphors for the pieces they had brought that particular day. I recall a female writer named Jenny who had written a poem about snuggling. The three stanza poem went on about being held and how awesome arms were. It was the kind of thing one’s brain did after listening to any Depeche Mode album. Regardless, the proposed metaphors were horrible. One student suggested squirrels in a tree as a metaphor for snuggling, another student suggested the feeling he got when drinking fine wine, and so Jenny got frustrated and abandoned the piece. The poem was, overall, a nice moment that was stretched too far. The metaphors discussed didn’t fit and so the poem was dead.
mother! is just like this poem. It’s metaphors are beyond basic and the fact that the film gives away the majority of the plot in the first ten seconds will make one wish that Darren Aronofsky had sat down with students and discussed his vision. If that were to have happened, then this sloppy piece of shit never would have cost viewers over 2 hours of their lives. And, trust me, you won’t get it back.
mother! begins as a loosely formed revision of the Sixth Sense wherein the main characters and the house they live in magically come back to life. There’s been a horrible fire and Jennifer Lawrence as Mary and Javier as God are struggling to recreate or “rebuild” it. The house is a metaphor for the Garden of Eden, but God has writer’s block, and is referred to by Adam and Eve (a wonderful Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeifer- the lone bright spot of the film) as The Poet. Unfortunately, Cain and Abel show up and, as the story goes, Cain kills Abel. God (aka The Poet) escorts Adam and Eve and their friends out of the Garden of Eden. To this point, the Bible according to Darren Aronofsky justifies the previews that many viewers feel mislead by. The film begins as an art house suspense thriller with Biblical overtones. But after Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeifer exit the film, it completely collapses and drudges on for another 90 minutes.
Guests begin coming in droves and break a sink. The broken sink is the metaphor for Noah and the flood in the Christian Bible. Then, Mary gets pissed at God and barks that He can’t even fuck her. He does. She gets pregnant and has a baby after The Poet (or God) writes a new piece- a weak metaphor for the New Testament in the Christian Bible. Mary gives birth, The Poet takes her baby (Jesus) to show his fans, the fans eat the baby and leave its torso on the kitchen table, Mary gets pissed, she blows up the house (or heaven), and mother! shows it’s first scene again. Everything comes back to life, the house is restored, and the film ends as it began. You can almost hear Aronofsky sniffing coke and saying he’s the Alpha and the Omega, but that would be too cool for this lame piece of pretentious fucktardedness.
Wiser media and art like… Portlandia?- would have made this a brief skit. Depeche Mode even knew to rail on and on and on about God and Jesus for about an hour every few years on an album- no more. So what was Aronofsky thinking? The first thing that comes to mind is Oscar bait. So it’s unfortunate that Jennifer Lawrence wanders about a house for 2 hours constantly asking who the people inside are and why they’re there. In the recent age of US white power and male dominance this may have seemed like a wise role. Playing a Mary figure who stands up to men or who redefines a religion for a new political age could surely lure Oscar voters. She could have been the deep thinking injection the cinema needs to help viewers cope. But she begs to get fucked and then cowers while men eat her baby. Poor Jesus! Jesus, dude, your mom sucks.
The second thing that comes to mind is that the studio was perfectly happy to let Darren copy and paste a film again. His Black Swan, a huge Oscar winner for Portman, was simply an adaptation of the much superior 90’s Anime classic Perfect Blue. Darren switched Portman’s background from an actress to a ballerina and it worked for the most part. Similarly, Darren saw the Christian Bible as an interesting set of events and pasted it into a house. This time it backfired and may have deeply cut into Lawrence’s respectability as an actress- it’s that bad. Thus, once the final cut came out, it was disguised as a horror flick in previews but still failed at the box office. Even Rotten Tomatoes has reversed its certified fresh rating on its website. But the echos of the studio screaming “What the fuck do we do with this piece of shit?” are loud and clear.
This reversal by rotten Tomatoes begs the question as to why reviewers are being positive about this film. Reviewers used to quickly identify trash like Gigli and pounce to save us from it. Now it seems as though they fear Aronofsky will stop making films and so they pour on the praise to keep him in the game. Ebert often used to do this for Sean Connery and publicly stated that he would give anything he made a thumbs up so that Connery would keep making and acting in films. This resulted in undue praise giving us The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. And now it has resulted in mother!- a thinly thought through, poor metaphor that’s sent studios and reviewers scrambling to try and make up its cost. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman will seem like a Best Picture nominee if you watch it after the garbage that is mother!
Don’t fall for it.