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mother! Review

17 Sep

This is a tough one. Parts of it are intense, full throttle filmmaking, the type of contained space pressure cooker that’s right up my alley. Other parts are exceedingly dumb, the type of faux profound grandstanding that spews from the mind of a guy who probably got a few too many pats on the back when he was younger. And no, just because certain elements of the script seem to deal with this notion of celebrity–and arguably with the meaning of Aronofsky’s own place in the world as a creative mind–that does not for one second excuse his poor choices. When I evaluate films that are ridiculous and campy like this one is at times, I wholly appreciate it if and only if I get the sense that the filmmaker understands and embraces what he or she is doing. From Aronofsky, I get the sense that his form of self awareness is a form of smug self-seriousness rather than a driver of the cinematic experience. Now, the Aronofsky Touch worked in Black Swan, but that’s because that film was a true psychological thriller, a more tightly structured piece that had more to say about fewer things.

mother! begins well enough. It’s really quite good for a lot of its runtime (hence the high score), and Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer do a hell of a job building the unsettling intrigue of the situation. The sound design is eerie, the space itself is utilized very well, and Matthew Libatique’s work with the camera does a wonderful job of setting up the aesthetic of the film. Lawrence is oftentimes seen in grainy close-ups, and the camera seems steady on her even as it’s constantly moving, constantly crafting a sense of disorientation that it can later set to explode. Handheld thus makes sense in this situation because Libatique can strike a balance between intimate close-ups that capture emotion and the continual movement that propels the film forward. Light and shadow interplay in a similar way here, illuminating creation while lamenting destruction. Whether that applies to the environment, religion, or art is up to you.

And that brings us to the allegories. I appreciate Aronofsky’s desire to strive for something more in his work, but not when it’s nonsense that thinks it actually means something profound. Even though I didn’t get every easter egg he sprinkled throughout–the Adam’s Rib one is fun, I will say–I ultimately simply don’t care. This is especially the case when his third act is pointlessly ugly and a complete miscalculation of what it means to escalate a situation and embrace the ridiculous. I love the final cut to black, but a lot before that is laughably amateurish in execution. It’s certainly interesting enough to not completely derail the entire film, but that’s not exactly high praise, is it?

GRADE: B

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