A young woman’s eyes stare at us from what appears to be hell, then the image of a man (Javier Bardem) pulls a fire veined crystal out of his burnt home, restoring it back to normal. The restoration brings his wife (Jennifer Lawrence) out of bed, in search for her husband amongst the empty rooms.
Mother! focuses in on a famous writer who locks himself in his writer’s den while his overworked wife repairs the entire house on her own. We see here a presumably distanced, unhealthy marriage, one that by the end should hopefully trigger some good conversation about proper healthy gender roles in a marriage.
The wife’s wardrobe acutely projects her precise emotional state throughout Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan) film; she first wears a opaque see-through night gown, then dresses in either all frail-white or all wooly-gray, depending on her inner security. These costumes designed by Danny Glicker (Milk, Up in the Air) contrast her against these satanic visions she has from inside the supposedly inanimate house, as if it knows her true feelings better than she does. Sure enough, we travel deep into her psychological state mostly through close-ups on her unstable face. Nothing about her thoughts is left to the imagination once her husband starts letting these strangers stay in their place.
The octagon-shaped home itself almost seems like a character itself, as it resides far away from civilization in a grain field. The wife never once sets foot out of the boarded wood, almost as if she and he house are one in the same.
Somehow, more and more visitors come to the house’s evil workings. First, a dying man to wants to visit the author who lives there, then his slutty lover moves in too, then their sons start a Cain-and-Abel fight, leaving the wife alone with a pool of blood to mop up. Everything from here violates her space as house fights, raves, demolishment, robberies, and even the SWAT team turn her house into a warzone. They came just to worship her author husband, attention he simply adores despite the deadly chaos. The noise levels become so loud you can barely hear her screams as her petite, silver dress gets gradually distressed. You truly feel sorrow for her while everything over a single evening grows worse to near-cultic levels; none of these terroristic visitors even once acknowledge her as anything more than property.
This entire sequence is both the film’s greatest asset and greatest blow, as it expresses its true distance from reality. These terrorists lack believability as they demolish the home; their behavior could possibly stem from the house’s evil energy, but little was established to authenticate my theory.
The feature’s very last frame leaves the viewer with a reality twist that leaves behind more questions than answers as to everything seen. When I say questions, I mean the kind that leaves you less thinking about the ultimate theme, and more about the “masterful” work of the director.
Other classic horror films depicted evil spirits with “open to fan theory” moments, while also keeping grounded in reality. Ironic, as various plot points here virtually copy both Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining, both of which remained subtle in their interpretive imagery, which Mother! abuses.
What made the message even less effective came from the acting, mainly by Miss Lawrence. She was supposed to appear compassionate compared to everyone else around her, except the Oscar winning actress did nothing with her eyes to evoke sympathy. She even unintentionally cracked me up pretty hard from her blank line deliveries and ear-screeching screams, especially when under really bad burnt makeup effects. I’m serious, any other a-list, b-list, or even c-list actress could have played her part better.
I guess I can understand why she put so little care into her role, as it was written with too much passivity to bring out the independent woman empowerment it clearly intended. It never clarified what exactly she fears; is it the house itself, the strangers, or her husband? While we’re at it, what does she even see in her husband if he disrespects her so often? Even if she fears aloneness, such weakness in character consequently ruins her sympathetic appeal.
It makes you wonder: what if the gender roles swapped? What if the wife played the ungrateful workaholic while her husband did the cleaning? What if the women were played by unattractive actresses by talented unknowns possibly from a different ethnicity? Aronofsky may have addressed the wrong questions, yet with what he does expose us to, it helps to initiate some talking and listening for once.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!