Mother! – A Movie Review

Though this film came out in September of 2017, I just got around to watching in on Amazon Prime Video.  I remember the reviews were mixed at best with most unable to pinpoint the exact nature of the movie.  This controversy, along with the fact that Darren Aronofsky wrote and directed it, made it required viewing in my mind.

I knew things were going to get interesting as soon as the title appeared on screen with the exclamation point appearing a few beats after the word “Mother” with an emphatic sound effect.  The punctuation seemed almost comedic in delivery, which gave me the sense that things were going to get a little crazy.

I was wrong.

Things got a lot crazy.

The premise is that a young unnamed woman, played by Jennifer Lawrence, lives in a huge house in the middle of the countryside with her older, also unnamed, husband.  Played by Javier Bordem, he is a writer suffering block.  As he struggles to create, she busies herself with repairing the house bit by bit due to a horrendous, and mysterious, calamity that occurred at some previous point.

A stranger soon appears at their door, played by Ed Harris.  He brings general chaos with him as a bad house guest after Bordem’s character, the husband (none of these characters are given actual names), invites him to stay.  Michelle Pfeiffer plays Harris’ wife, and she’s the next to show up.  She too brings bedlam.

Lawrence says very little in this film, but her facial expressions tell the viewer everything they need to know.  She is a doting wife trying to appease her husband at every opportunity, yet it’s obvious she is irritated to no end with the rude interlopers.  As are we.

As the movie continues, more and more strangers appear with the husband inviting each and every one of them in.  The wife cannot understand why he’s inviting insanity into their lives as she constantly strives for self-control.

The film next shifts into a higher gear as it somehow grows even more surreal.  It really captures the helplessness of a nightmare — it felt very much like some bad dreams that I’ve had.  Lawrence’s character can only accept impossible events as normal occurrences even though her eyes endlessly scream, “This cannot be happening!”  As we watch, we are saying the exact same thing to ourselves.

There are many theories as to what this film is about.  I personally feel that it is about the creator’s need to constantly destroy those things created.  Or maybe it’s about purgatory, and Lawrence’s character is trying to atone for mistakes made in life.  Or maybe Bardem’s character is the devil, intent upon making people suffer in their own personal Hell, one person at a time.  Or maybe it’s about the fact that no matter how much control we think we have, no matter how hard we fight to build the perfect life, the discord of the world outside will always disrupt our harmonious existence.

Or maybe it’s about none of that.

Who knows for sure?

I will say this, though — the sound effects in this movie are amazing.  I watched it on my Kindle with earbuds which enabled me to enjoy every anxious breath, every creaking floorboard, and every conversation from the next room.  I’ve never felt such impact by sound in a movie.

The camera movement also impressed me.  I love the way the camera follows characters around the house, up and down the stairs, through shortcuts from room to room.  It’s very fluid, yet also sometimes dizzying.

Finally, Lawrence absolutely portrays a sympathetic character trying so hard to deal with the pandemonium surrounding her.  Bardem plays a likable husband who infuriates us nonetheless.  Harris and Pfeiffer manage to irritate us from the moment they walk on screen until the moment they walk off.  There’s also several surprise appearances that I won’t spoil for you.

I don’t really know if I actually liked Mother!, to be honest.  It certainly captivated me.  It absolutely demanded my active engagement.  However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to the casual movie goer.  It’s definitely aimed at those with a lot of patience and a high threshold for ambiguity.  It’s a strange movie.

If you give it a watch, or if you’ve already seen it, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you.

Image result for mother! movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest books HERE!)

 

 

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Appaloosa – A Movie Review

This western directed by Ed Harris stars both he and Viggo Mortensen.  It also costars Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.  I remember aching to get to the theater to see Appaloosa when it came out and really regretting I never made it.  So when I finally got around to watching it on DVD, I had very high expectations.

Those expectations were severely uncalled for.

On paper, the acting alone should have made this a great movie, but it failed to impress.  Mortensen, as usual, delivered a subtle performance, but he seemed to suffer from the haphazard plot and script.  Renee Zellweger’s role encompassed every negative trait you could give a woman, and I just don’t buy Jeremy Irons as a cowboy.  Sorry.  But Ed Harris – oh, Ed Harris.  Shame on you, you normally fantastic actor.

Ed Harris adapted this movie from the novel and directed it, so the clichéd dialogue, slow pacing, and uninteresting characters (exempting Mortensen, of course), fell squarely on his shoulders.  Harris’ character obviously meant to come off as complex, but I found him inconsistent and silly.   And frankly, the movie as a whole came off the same.  I counted the minutes until it ended.

Appaloosa looked great in the trailers, but failed to entice when watched in its entirety.  Even the amazing Viggo Mortensen couldn’t save it.

The Human Stain – A Movie Review

I picked up The Human Stain only because Sir Anthony Hopkins stars in it and I’m a fan of his work.  However, also starring in this movie are Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise, and they all give terrific performances.

The basic premise is that a college professor says something in class that is mistaken for a racial slur.  He ultimately quits his job out of protest, and the shocking news utterly changes his relationship with his wife forever.  He eventually finds himself in a relationship with a woman who seems to be further down the socio-economic structure (Kidman), and they must deal with her estranged and demented husband (Harris).  I really can’t tell you much more about this film without spoiling some major plot devices, but let me just say that there are some fascinating insights into Hopkins’ character through flashbacks to his youth.  I will also say that in the beginning of the movie everything seems rather random and pointless, but by the end of the film, it has all served a purpose, revealing a story that will truly provoke your deepest thoughts.

Again, Hopkins, as usual, was magnificent.  Kidman was barely recognizable due to her drastically different body language and huffy, American accent.  Ed Harris plays a man significantly disturbed and Harris pulls it off with such subtlety that I honestly saw insanity when I looked into his eyes.  Sinise was the only character that troubled me just a bit.  He seemed only to be on the fringe of the story, and while I thought Sinise did an impressive job, I never really truly understood the point of his character.

I genuinely recommend this movie.  I don’t remember hearing much about it when it was in the theatres, and that’s probably because it has a rather controversial and daring premise.  There are some brief scenes of nudity as well as harsh language, so take that into account.