Mother! de­li­ciously dis­com­fort­ing

Winnipeg Sun - - SHOWBIZ - BRAUN

You know that thing where you eat at some up­scale res­tau­rant and all the food is beau­ti­fully ar­ranged on the plate and every morsel is de­li­cious … but you’re still hun­gry when you leave?

That’s kind of the way it is with mother!, the new hor­ror/ psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller/fre­netic froofera from film­maker Dar­ren Aronof­sky. This is a movie that we ex­pe­ri­enced as thrilling for the first hour and an­noy­ing for the sec­ond; the an­noy­ing part was likely just our own long­ing for a rec­og­niz­able nar­ra­tive struc­ture.

Any­way, it all felt deeply un­sat­is­fy­ing.

mother! is a bit be­yond lan­guage, so it’s as dif­fi­cult to de­scribe as any epic night­mare. The story con­cerns a cou­ple who live alone in an iso­lated house, a fab­u­lous old pile right out of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

Or The Haunt­ing of Hill House. Or The Oth­ers.

Lis­ten — pick a scare from your fave hor­ror movie or novel. It’s all in here.

She (Jennifer Lawrence) is restor­ing the house af­ter al­most losing it in a fire.

He (Javier Bar­dem) is a poet go­ing through ter­ri­ble writer’s block.

The ten­sion in the house is pal­pa­ble, and the weird go­ings-on with her are elec­tric: the beat­ing heart of the house, the scary base­ment, the hideous soli­tude, the bloody floor­boards, the mys­te­ri­ous med­i­cal con­di­tion — it’s all in here.

One day, he brings home a stranger (Ed Harris). Stay the night, says he.

No! says she. But the stranger stays the night. He ad­mires the work of the poet. He’s a doc­tor. He must be okay. He has some hor­ri­ble sick­ness.

Then his scary wife (Michelle Pfeif­fer) ar­rives. Then their scary adult chil­dren. Vi­o­lence and blood­shed en­sue. And freak­ing chaos.

Lawrence’s char­ac­ter con­tin­ues to trail around the house, wax­ing do­mes­tic and try­ing to pro­tect her hus­band’s sa­cred cre­ative space. But more and more strangers show up and the as­saults on their pri­vacy and their home be­gin to es­ca­late.

She is preg­nant. Now he and she are cre­at­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously, so per­haps art and na­ture can be in synch? Ha, ha — no. The var­i­ous hor­rors keep mount­ing.

And where, we hear you ask­ing, does it all lead?

Let’s just say that that may all be in the eye of the be­holder. mother! is a film about — we’re guess­ing here — the cre­ative im­pulse, the muse, the pub­lic’s re­sponse to suc­cess, maybe the end of civ­i­liza­tion as we know it. It is per­sonal, po­lit­i­cal and per­sis­tent; it might only be about film­mak­ing it­self, for all we know.

Which would be un­for­tu­nate.

Any­way, for sure it’s a love let­ter. You should know go­ing in that Jennifer Lawrence and film­maker Dar­ren Aronof­sky are a ro­man­tic cou­ple, be­cause oth­er­wise you might start to get a bit squirmy about the male gaze in­volved. We have no prob­lem star­ing at Jennifer Lawrence for two hours — lit and shot as she is as if Car­avag­gio were helm­ing — but there’s a hint of the voyeur in it all that is un­com­fort­able af­ter a while. Re­ally, bro? Nip­ples-ThroughPy­jama-Top again?

As if fur­ther dis­com­fort were re­quired. (Hint: it isn’t.)

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