ACHIEVING A STATE OF MATERNAL DAMNATION DIRECTOR: DARREN ARONOFSKY (BLACK SWAN) STARRING: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, JAVIER BARDEM, ED HARRIS, MICHELLE PFEIFFER, DOMHNALL GLEESON, BRIAN GLEESON
Every so often, a truly provocative movie comes along, daring you to either love it unconditionally, or loathe it uncontrollably.
The aggressively abstract, self-indulgent and unashamedly pretentious psychological thriller that is mother! is one such movie. Most will end up loathing it. Particularly those seduced by the superb advance marketing of mother!, which intensely magnetises viewer curiosity in a flash.
The experience delivered by the movie barely resembles the experience suggested.
There ain’t no story in the conventional sense of the word here. Yet for a genuinely intriguing first half-hour, this does not prove to be too much of a drawback.
Jennifer Lawrence plays a nameless character (though the closing credits later identify her as “mother”) renovating an old house that has survived a recent fire.
This beautiful, driven woman in her twenties shares the dwelling with her older husband (Javier Bardem), a famous poet fighting a crippling case of writer’s block.
Despite living at such close quarters – in what seems to be a secretive woodlands location – there is definitely some kind of fixed emotional distance between these two.
Measuring its exact length is a tantalising prospect for the viewer, but ultimately, a fruitless task. The wife craves privacy so she can paint walls and pick out furniture. However, her husband’s fans keep dropping by uninvited.
How did wackos like a wheezing sleaze (Ed Harris) and his antsy missus (Michelle Pfeiffer) even find the house in the first place? Why are their adult sons (Domhnall and Brian Gleeson) having a full-on punch-up in the dining room?
Who tipped off the paparazzi and TV reporters milling around outside? Hey, is that the army coming down the driveway? And why, oh why, is everyone doing weird stuff that is slowly scrambling the sanity of their hostess?
This stream of NQR visitors starts off as a trickle, and ends in a deluge that threatens to drown the unhappy couple in a deep pool of their own marital discontent.
The arrival of each new guest allows the movie to fumble some more with an incoherently coded metaphor for something that must be peeving mother! writer-director Darren Aronofsky.
The filmmaker definitely has some issues he is working through about the damaging nature of a life lived in the public eye.
This is kind of interesting – for oh, about a minute or so – if you watch mother! armed with the knowledge that Aronofsky and Lawrence are a couple in real life.
However, there is nothing cathartic about the confusing, therapeutic process mother! is inflicting upon its audience.
The manically meaningless mood swings in mother! just keep on coming hard and farcical, while any hope of processing them is going slowly down the drain.
The overall effect is both desperately cryptic and preciously pointless, like repeatedly taking a wrong turn down David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive in a car with four flat tyres.
JAVIER BARDEM AND JENNIFER LAWRENCE STAR IN WRITER-DIRECTOR DARREN ARONOFSKY’S LATEST EFFORT, THE CRYPTIC AND POINTLESS MOTHER!