MOTHER LODE OF ALLEGORY
Jennifer Lawrence goes out on a limb for her most polarising movie yet, as Michele Manelis discovers
Jennifer Lawrence says shooting her latest film mother! is the most “out of whack” she has ever felt.
The psychological horror film, directed by Lawrence’s partner Darren Aronofsky, has been doing the rounds at prestigious film festivals in Venice and Toronto over the past week, garnering polarising and extreme reactions from audiences and critics.
Oscar-winner Lawrence, who has made a career balancing blockbuster franchises such as The Hunger Games and X-Men with acclaimed dramas, can relate to that.
“I’d have days where I would wake up and be like, ‘What am I doing? Is any of this making sense? Should I walk away now?’,” she says in Toronto. “It really scared me. At a certain point, when it was too late to walk away, I thought, ‘I’ll wait for the movie to come out and run, run, run away’.”
Aronofsky is famous for disturbing, off-kilter fare such as 2000’s Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, the latter of which earned five Oscar nominations in 2011, including a Best Actress win for Natalie Portman.
The Harvard-educated director and environmentalist has been a romantic item with Lawrence since they met to make the film in September last year — but their relationship is not up for discussion.
Rather, Lawrence is more interested in fiercely defending mother!, which drew boos after its screening in Venice.
“Well, I think that’s great. All Darren’s films have been booed at festivals,” Lawrence says, defiantly. “And it is polarising. We didn’t make this film to be a darling. It’s very loud, it’s aggressive, and it’s an assault. Yes, it’s a hard film to watch. It makes you feel and makes you think. I love it, I am proud of it, it’s extraordinary. “There’s nothing like it.” In mother!, which plays out as an allegory about the destruction of the planet, Lawrence is Mother Earth to her husband, Him (fellow Oscar-winner Javier Bardem).
The couple live in a remote country house in idyllic surroundings, until a couple of strangers, played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, show up unexpectedly.
Lawrence acknowledges that taking the role was a risk.
“This character is so vulnerable and so different from anything I have ever done,” she says.
“Darren said it so well — he said that this is the first time I’ve been put on my back foot, and that was a huge challenge for me.”
Lawrence is at pains to spell out the Biblical allegories (terrain also covered in Aronofsky’s 2014 hit Noah) in mother!, to best prepare viewers before they watch the film.
“Audiences should know that I represent Mother Earth and Javier represents a form of God — a creator, a writer, an artist,” Lawrence says.
“Michelle Pfeiffer would be Eve to Ed Harris, who is Adam.
“There is a Cain and an Abel, and the home would be the Garden of Eden. These universal and Biblical themes are all condensed into one household.” She pauses and laughs. “But then again, if you don’t understand the allegory, it’s OK. Then it’s just a really powerful, loud and beautiful movie,” she says. “Some people figure it out on their own, though I don’t think I would.”
Lawrence has retained some of the candid, spontaneous, outspoken spirit that charmed the world when she shot to fame in 2011, earning an Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone.
Since then she’s won the Best Actress Academy Award for Silver Linings Playbook and been nominated for two more Oscars (for American Hustle and Joy).
She has also been the world’s highest-paid female actor and named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine.
But the harsh glare of the spotlight has also made the 27-year-old guarded, even a little resentful of her success.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, she explains she has been through an adjustment period.
“Look, I can’t do what I love without fans,” she says. “If people didn’t want to come see my movies, then I wouldn’t be able to make them, so I am so grateful for that. I also think that everybody wants and everybody deserves personal space, and nobody wants their personal space violated.
“But I have come to a different place than where I was a couple of years ago. Now I’m not worried about being nice and polite to everybody all the time, and I take care of myself.
“If I don’t have security, if I am by myself and I feel that my personal space is being violated, then I’ll defend myself.
“Ever since I came to grasp that I don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, I don’t have to take selfies with people in a public bathroom, life became a lot easier and I don’t have as much anxiety.”
As a public figure, she makes headlines. Most recently, Lawrence declared the monster hurricanes in Texas and Florida were a direct sign of Mother Nature’s “rage and wrath” at America for electing Donald Trump.
“It scares me that the people in charge don’t believe that climate change exists, yet we are seeing these storms that are historic, once-every-thousandyear cataclysms — and we see them weekly, along with increasing fires and earthquakes,” she says.
“It’s scary because we have been told by scientists what would happen if we don’t act, and it scares me for our future.”
Lawrence, who has long been outspoken about gender inequality, and particularly the Hollywood pay gap, wears her political mantle with pride. So Lawrence has changed. The question is whether her legion of Hunger Games fans have changed with her.
Is she concerned they might be traumatised by seeing her in mother!?
“If they are traumatised by it, good,” she laughs.
“That is how we get people to get into action and start caring.”
Out of whack: Above, Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from mother! Opposite: Lawrence attends the UK premiere. Picture: Getty Images mother! is screening now. Read the review in The Guide.