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Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 12:04 am

Challenging Mother! a dark parable for our times

Jennifer Lawrence in Mother!

 

I remember that during one of my father’s melancholy moments, of which there were many, he expressed a theory he had where God and human beings were concerned. He felt as though Earth and all that lived on it was simply an experiment in the Creator’s eyes and that He watched and waited to see what we would do with all that He had given us until He felt we had squandered the opportunity to do good and live in peace. At that point, God would leave us to our own devices and move on to create a new experiment in the hopes that whatever life form lived there would live up to His expectations. My father felt that there were many, many failed experiments in many, many different galaxies.

Having seen Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, I think that he and my father would have a lot to discuss. The director doesn’t shy away from controversy and seemingly invites it here, with this tale of sacrifice, resurrection, redemption and some very strange goings-on in between.

Much of the power of Mother! comes in the act of discovery, so any summation of the plot, such as it is, must be sparse. After a shockingly violent yet brief prologue involving an actress who looks suspiciously like Aronofsky’s ex Rachel Weisz (read into that what you will), we meet a poet (Javier Bardem) who lives in a rambling old mansion in the middle of nowhere. His much younger bride (Jennifer Lawrence) caters to his every need and is devoted to remodeling the home for him (“I want to make a paradise”) so that he might have a relaxing environment in which to conquer his writer’s block. All is going swimmingly until they hear a knock on the door one evening and find a lost man (Ed Harris) on their doorstop. Having mistaken their home for a bed-and-breakfast, the writer invites him to stay the night without consulting his wife. The next day the visitor’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up, makes herself right at home, and begins asking intrusive questions that leave her young hostess uncomfortable.

More, I dare not say, but it wouldn’t be giving too much away in revealing that the man and woman are far from the only visitors who end up trespassing on the home, all of whom make it their own in their own particular way. Aronofsky composes much of the film with handheld shots that become increasingly tight on Lawrence as the film goes on, emphasizing her sense of increasing claustrophobia and anguish. This must have been an exhausting experience for the young actress as she is put through the wringer both physically and emotionally as her character falls apart, literally and figuratively.

What her destruction means is open to interpretation, though I suspect that brushing up on your Bible stories would be a good primer before taking this in. As I say, some of Aronofsky’s concepts work and others don’t, but his daring proves invigorating coming on the heels of this summer’s cookie-cutter movies. While there were moments when I was a bit confused, and more than a few that were off-putting, I was never bored with Mother!. Intriguing from the first frame to the last, this is the sort of film that resonates with you long after the final credits roll, a work that begs to be seen repeatedly in order to unlock all the director wants to say. It’s not a pleasant movie to sit through, but examining a challenging work of art is often a thorny proposition, and Mother! is worth any scrapes or cuts you might get along the way.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

    
For a review of American Assassin, go to the Cinemascoping blog at http://illinoistimes.com.

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