Darren Aronofsky cribs liberally from the Old Testament for allegorical inspiration toward a mind-blowing social satire disguised as a psychological thriller. You might not recognize Adam and Eve in the guise of Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, but you’ll probably pick up on the Cain and Abel metaphor when it arrives.
Jennifer Lawrence is the 20-years-younger wife to Javier Bardem’s grumpy poet, suffering from a bad case of writer’s block in spite of the couple’s idyllic life in their newly renovated Victorian home in a remote wooded area. Yes, Bardem's spirit animal is none other than God. Gulp.
The home’s octagonal design presages the nefarious battleground that the house is doomed to become as a stream of uninvited guests start to arrive. Luis Buñuel's surrealist masterpiece "The Exterminating Angel" was another touchstone.
In Jennifer Lawrence, Aronofsky has found his most invigorating muse to date. The result is the performance of a lifetime from Lawrence (Aronofsky’s real-life love interest), doing her due diligence as a corporeal stand in for Mother Earth.
Overpopulation, a lazy world-governing egomaniacal Patriarchy, militarized police, and self-obsessed millennials come together en masse to rip out shreds of a Mother Earth on the verge of collapse.
There will be plenty of complaints about “mother!” being a “confusing” film, from dim-witted audience members that Aronofsky refuses to talk down to. Good for him, and good for audiences willing and able to tune in for the wild and witty cinematic ride on display. Those viewers will savor meticulous storytelling, terrific ensemble performances, and brilliant editing in a cinematic masterpiece comparable to anything Polanski has done.
If you get a waft of Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate” during this film’s explosive climax, rest assured it is by design.
Eschewing background music proves a masterstroke in a stylized work of far-reaching thematic ramifications. The lack of a score adds to this film’s creepy atmosphere as it builds toward an apocalyptic crescendo produced by sheer narrative force. This is eco activist cinema on par with the politically charged dramaturgy of the famed Group Theater.
Here is Darren Aronofsky’s most powerful film to date, and the same goes for Jennifer Lawrence. “mother!” could well be the best film of 2017; it certainly is the most haunting one so far.
Rated R. 121 mins.
Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.
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