In “Mother!,” which I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival just before its commercial release, Javier Bardem plays a desperate man with a writer’s block. Would that director-screenwriter Darren Aronofsky also had writer’s block. It would have spared us from the most obnoxious film of the year.
Whatever was on Aronofsky’s mind with respect to the horror genre, “Mother!” is a pretentious exercise in mounting violence with a thoroughly repulsive ending. Maybe horror fans will relate to it, but others may find the violence upsetting and the finale just plain disgusting. And the entire film makes little sense.
Jennifer Lawrence as the mother in question goes through most of the film screaming, and that’s before she is set afire (there’s worse). The camera loves her, as well it should, but she has an empty one-note sacrificial role.
The set-up involves a recently married couple living in a house that had been destroyed. In the title role Lawrence is fixing it up with devotion. Bardem is creepy and manipulative as a writer frantic to receive approval, welcoming people who supposedly come to celebrate him but rip the house apart.
What happens is a steady, ever-growing wild mob invading, starting with visitors played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, whom the husband welcomes but against whom the wife angrily protests. More and more people show up to storm the house, as the destruction is piled on in scene after scene. Meanwhile, the wife discovers that she is pregnant.
What may sometimes be illusion on the part of the wife and what is reality can be pondered. But what we see is what we get, and the horror is ever-mounting, not with wit, but with an exercise in cinematic outrageousness.
If you find it worth analyzing, you can spot a “Rosemary’s Baby” idea, for example. Perhaps one can accept “Mother!” as satire of the horror flicks. But any potential meaning is undermined by the unfettered violence without anything seriously or comically making sense. Given all of the hype about the film, you may want to see for yourself. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. A Paramount Pictures release. Reviewed September 15, 2017.