spoiler alerts. not that it matters. read on:
I remember Requiem for a Dream being a real downer which had shocking and degrading scenes because it was real. If Darren Aronofsky had followed that up with another hyper-realistic, life-is-horrible show he would have been the next Harmony Korine. Instead he made Black Swan and sold out by making it “all a dream.” In Hollywood, that means hopeless.
Which brings me to mother!
I was entertained by the movie and felt it was worth ten bucks. While the camera work is great and it keeps you on the edge of your seat (unlike Black Swan) it does not leave you with anything special.
mother! is a movie when it could have been a film. The themes are there. The drama is there. The shocking underbelly is there. All it needed was to stick to and not veer from the script. Or the script that was there, but trashed.
We are now going to spill the story for you while showing how this perfectly great script could have shocked, repulsed and been argued over as art. Or just read this excellent review by a feminist from The New Yorker who calls it “conceited.” word!
Poet lives in a lovely Victorian house in the middle of nowhere with very beautiful (and much younger) wife. Poet has writer’s block. Wife cannot inspire him to write either even though she is his most ardent fan. You never know their names because Aronofksy is telling you that they are biblical archetypes. (Kurosawa would have given them names, even professions.)
Suddenly a guy shows up ostensibly claiming to confuse beautiful house with a B&B. This guy turns out to be a crazed doctor fan who is dying. Wife wants the scummy doctor to leave, Poet wants him to stay because he “understands” the Poet’s work.
In due course, the dying man invites the rest of his family (which enrages Poet’s wife but Poet thinks is cool because they all like him) and a fight over inheritance ensues between two brothers.
Chaos soon breaks loose as one son (CAIN) kills other son (ABEL) and Poet’s wife is stretched to breaking point. Only then does Poet ask the people to leave, and only after leaving wife in house alone (in the middle of nowhere with strange people lurking?) while Poet takes dying “ABEL” to hospital with rest of dying man’s family.
Incredibly cool movie up to this point. Oscar caliber story line too. (Surpassing Albee so far.)
After crazy family is gone, the poet suddenly “gets it handled” with wife on the stairs because his writers block has vanished in the bright glow of a dying fan’s love for his work and so has his Mike Ditka disease. He promises wife it will all be different now, and wife is cool with it because she gets prego and eventually a baby! out of it.
Cut to six months later and well, the Poet is so happy that he has suddenly written his opus. He shows it to his wife and she cries with joy but suddenly gets a little bummed because the Poet had already shipped a copy to his Publisher who read it first (not important other than to prove the guy is an egomaniac which we already knew).
Act Two (more or less)
Things are all happy in nowhere land till a new set of fans show up at the door, which quickly grow into the hundreds, which is too many for the large, but not that large, house.
Soon the place is turned into a kind of shrine to the Poet that quickly devolves into a mad Mecca with self-styled priests. People soon start ripping the house apart to get a piece of the Poet’s essence and wife goes nuts. It all ends with the poet taking the baby from the wife and offering it up to the crowd to worship (it’s his creation after all!) and, well, the crowd drops and then dismembers the baby for communion food. Poet did not mean for it to happen but it does.
And wife completely loses it.
And burns down the house with everyone inside including the Poet.
End of movie.
While credulity is strained, it stays creepy enough to pass commentary on the nature of creators and creation. While the Poet tells his Wife he loves her (even after the mix up with the baby) she by now correctly identifies that he “only loves the way she loves him.” He cannot love others because only loves himself. Only the mother! offers selfless love. While she may be plain, at least she does not destroy those around her, unlike her artist|creator husband. She loves and therefore is the real creator.
Aronofsky could have made a movie that told the above tale with real flesh and bone characters and fewer pilgrims and still made a point.
Alternately, if the above readings of the movie and script do not go deep enough then consider the Poet as the male Godhead who creates and destroys in an endless cycle while the mother! (it’s getting harder to make these exclamation points) is mother! (shit) nature. And after the house burns either her charred body or his moves in the ashes (it’s hard to tell) allowing you to remain perplexed about God, nature and ontology. Rarely has the later been this sexy.
But that is not what happens.
Or more precisely, while it happens, Darren must turn the return of the fans (which originally is a bit incredulous but still shocking and claustrophobic) into a ridiculous mélange’ of mayhem with helicopters and cops shooting people (so current, so trendy) and fans killing fans and SWAT teams and, well, the same old Hollywood overcooking of a script.
The baby is still, eventually, taken away by the Father|Poet from a really pissed mother! after she falls asleep and given to his adoring fans just to see and touch (which is a mistake–see above) after all this ridiculous stuff happens in the house and the mama (sorry) still burns down the house and everyone dies except the Poet who appears with another woman in the same bed in the same setting where the movie begins which is supposed to signify (I guess) that God or Creator is just an asshole that keeps ruining nature till it loves him good and right…
Because it’s all a dream dumb-ass!
While I am not a script writer or a filmmaker, I don’t see why Darren had to do this (as he seems to do all the time now). I mean the crowd in the second half the movie could have gotten all ritualistic and sacrificed the baby and the poet would have been responsible for taking it from the mother and giving it to the crowd and then she (nature) could have burned down the house and God with it. Or close to it.
That is the film lurking behind the pyrotechnics and preposterous dream premise and for what?
I can only surmise that Aronofsky is just getting overpaid which is the only reason to ruin a perfectly great potential script. You overdo it on purpose. He would have been much better off trying to be Albee with this one instead of Albee meets Arnold meets Sleeping Beauty on speed. He should have settled for cool and creepy morality tale with this first movie and saved the dream shit for the sequel. I mean he already has a J. Law look-alike as the new mother? in the bed who will work for a tenth of the pay. Better yet where mother! 1 was all good, mother?2?! can be BAD.
Unfortunately, Darren has already made much of that sequel with this disappointing box office bomb which is why we don’t think we’ve seen the last of this franchise. The mother! of this film might have offered her heart (yeah, literally, it makes no sense either) but Hollywood is still going to want its pound of flesh.
That means we’re seeing motherfucker! in the future.
But we’re not paying for a ticket again.