By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Ideally, you won't read any reviews of mother! — including this one — before you go see it.
Really. Go away now. Stop here.
That's how I entered the movie, a mindblowingly ambitious melange of religious imagery and horror tropes from director Darren Aronofsky. Other than seeing a teaser and the first full trailer, I had only read headlines of reviews and the film's landing page on Rotten Tomatoes.
I knew that Jennifer Lawrence starred as the young wife of Javier Bardem, and that they are joined unexpectedly at their home by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. Beyond that, I was clueless. That's not how I usually go to movies, but it felt right in this case — and man, am I glad I did so.
Because what Aronofsky has crafted here really defies explanation. I could tell you about the blood on the floor, or the frog, or the ... no, I can't tell you any more. Even if I could, seeing the way Aronofsky (and cinematographer Matthew Libatique and editor Andrew Weisblum) stack insanity upon insanity is far more enjoyable than reading about it.
The first half of the movie is pretty directly out of the horror-movie handbook, abetted by Pfeiffer's delicious performance and a M.C. Escher-like house, but Aronofsky's ambitions are far higher. Beyond the apparent religious implications embedded in the characters (unnamed, by the way) played by Lawrence and Bardem, there's a strong allegory about the way we treat the enviroment. There's an even more powerful metaphor about how artists can be willing to destroy everything around them in the service of their art (possibly self-indicting of Aronofsky, and an angle that's even more intriguing with the news that he and Lawrence started dating after filming).
Sounds heavy-handed, but really, these are just the thoughts that may or may not cross your mind as the movie gets crazier and crazier and crazier, when you're trying to figure out what you're seeing on the screen and why as the nightmares keep coming and coming. Is it pretentious? Sure, in the best way. Aronofsky is prodding and provoking with intent and with glee.
If you think back to the intense finales of Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream or Black Swan, you might think you'll be prepared for what happens in mother! — but you won't be.
Nothing can — or should — prepare you for the extreme WTF-ery of mother!, much less a review.
(R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language; click here for showtimes at United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd., and Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)