Sound Off! mother!

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, tackle some home renovations and discuss mother!, which premiered in the United States on Friday, September 15, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join Shara White and Nu Yang as they talk about mother! [Note: No spoilers in Shara’s first reaction, but there are  significant spoilers in Nu’s discussion of the film’s allegorical meaning after the red warning!]

Shara: It took me a few hours, but I finally decided what Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is about. Mainly, it’s that God is an asshole.

Don’t get me wrong, mother! is a movie with a lot of layers. I mean, you could leave the theater hanging on to the story you start out with, that the film is about a narcissistic creator/artist who’s so in love with the praise and adoration of his fans that he doesn’t care about the needs of his own wife. Which it is. It’s just that the surface reading of that story doesn’t really add up by the time you get to the ending (it’s part of it, just not all of it). When you really start examining the small details, the allegorical picture becomes clearer, to the point where I can’t see anything else anymore. It’s not a perfect allegory either. It can’t be, because the Bible itself doesn’t allow for a Mother Earth character, and that’s certainly what Jennifer Lawrence’s character is by the end. But she’s also the “Inspiration,” as well as the titular “Mother.” Like I said, layers. It’s a fascinating, claustrophobic movie that really reveals the pain Lawrence’s character feels at any and every humiliating moment where she’s overlooked, disregarded, and made to be utterly invisible. I feel like I could write a freaking paper on this movie, the biblical allegory, and other various interpretations because all the details, you guys! All the little details, some of which are super-obvious, but some aren’t, and those are kind of beautiful.

Make no mistake, mother! is a divisive movie. At times, it moves a tick too slow, and when it explodes into what-the-fuckery, you’re going to leave the movie wondering what just happened and why you watched it. The idea of creation and the cost of it is a fascinating one in and of itself, without the allegory crammed inside. But with the allegory, stuff that would have been standard tropes have new meaning, and the what-the-fuckery turns into something else entirely. And for once, we have a movie that finally addresses the hideous age difference between an actress and her male co-star, and it not only is it a plot point, but it also makes all-too-much sense by the bittersweet end of the movie. I think it’s worth watching, but things aren’t what they seem. If you go in expecting allegory instead of a standard horror movie, it helps. It really does.

Look out, spoilers below the poster!

Nu: I have no idea what was going through Darren Aronofsky’s mind when he wrote mother! but I do know I left the theater feeling like I wasted my time and money. I know Aronofsky has a dark and disturbing style of filmmaking, and I can appreciate it in his other works like Requiem for a DreamThe Fountain, and Black Swan. Even through the WTF moments in those movies, the characters and story were usually strong enough to keep me invested and engaged. That wasn’t the case with mother!

For two hours, I watched Aronofsky retell the biblical story of creation with so many heavy-handed metaphors and allegories that I cringed and muttered, “Seriously?” several times. Never mind the fact that I struggled to keep my eyes open for most of the movie. In mother!, Javier Bardem plays the Poet/Creator (spoiler: it’s God), and Jennifer Lawrence plays the mother (aka Mother Earth). They live in a house that mother takes care of (the planet) and she’s content with living alone peacefully with the poet, but he doesn’t feel the same way. A Man and a Woman show up played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer (they might as well have shown up wearing T-shirts saying ADAM and EVE). Their two sons also arrive unexpectedly (hello, Cain and Abel), then Cain kills Abel, etc., etc., etc. Aronofsky goes through the entire Bible showing the flood (a broken sink floods the house) to how awful humanity is as they tear the home (the planet) and each other apart in a series of war, fighting, and brutality. Then a surprise Kristen Wiig appears playing the poet’s publicist (Aronofsky described her character as sort of like the prophets in the Bible). Eventually, mother becomes pregnant, and look, it’s baby Jesus being taken away from her and handed over to the unwanted house guests by the poet. The guests kill the baby and eat the flesh (you guessed it, communion). In a graphic scene, the guests turn on mother and beat her nearly to death. That’s when mother decides she’s had enough and destroys the home, killing the guests (humanity). The poet is able to retrieve mother’s heart before she dies, and thus, the cycle of creation is able to begin again. 

When you break down the silly metaphors and allegories, you realize there’s no real story here. Not only was the writing/story bad, so was the acting. As the lead, Lawrence spent the majority of the time screaming and crying. Bardem didn’t have much to work with but stand there and look menacing. There was no chemistry between Lawrence and Bardem either — and yes, the age difference still made me uncomfortable. Pfeiffer showed some signs of life, but overall, was wasted in her role. I was also disappointed there was no musical score from frequent Aronofsky collaborator Clint Mansell (in fact, the movie had no score at all). Other critics said the movie served as a cautionary tale for mankind to take care of our home, but if Aronofsky wanted to tell that story, why do it in such an uninspiring and ridiculous way? It’s no wonder CinemaScore gave it a “F” rating, and the studio had to put out a statement defending the movie and addressing the bad reviews and backlash.


  • Shara White September 19, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    I find it interesting that, depending on the site you go to, you get a different Aronofsky interpretation. As in, he gave an interview and gave a different answer to different interviewers. confirmed a Biblical allegory, whereas Vanity Fair confirms environmentalism. There’s no reason it can’t be a mix of both, but I read a viewer interpretation that frankly makes takes the Biblical story and gives the movie what Nu thought the movie lacked: a story.

    So if you don’t mind epic spoilers, beyond what Nu provided above, check out The Mary Sue: mother! Is a Fascinating Film Better Understood If You Consider the Jews.

    I stand by my statement this is a fascinating film, with lots of layers and ways of looking at it. I’m not saying you have to like it, but there’s definitely a lot of experimentation here (I didn’t mind the lack of soundtrack, and I’m a soundtrack geek), and I think it’s worth the experience. But because your mileage may vary, you may want to wait to see it until you can pay what you want for it. 🙂 Even The Mary Sue has a spoiler-free review: Review: Reports of mother!‘s Terribleness Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.

  • Nicole Taft September 21, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    I thought it was interesting how you two saw it the same way, but while Shara dug it, Nu was 100% NOPE. Before this got posted, I cheated and went to a spoiler site to read the summary – the person at the end thought J.Lawrence was supposed to be Mary rather than Mother Earth. So when I saw you two both go the other direction, I wondered, “Is there a right answer?”

    And the lack of soundtrack is fascinating to me given how ingrained music is to movies these days.

    • Shara White September 21, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      I understand the Mary comparison because she gave birth to a baby that clearly symbolized Jesus, though the baby was immediately taken away and consumed. Actually, if you want a “right” answer, I suggest reading my comment above and click on The Mary Sue link that talks about the interpretation in light of the Jewish People. It makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE.


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