Masterful ‘Mother!’ could make even extreme horror fans wince


Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother!’ is a masterpiece that might make even fans of extreme horror movies wince. It’s stylish, complex and superbly acted by Jennifer Lawrence, the titular mother.

As anyone who has watched the trailer knows, the film has a distinctive “Rosemary’s Baby” vibe, and that’s intentional. But this time the proceedings take place not in a New York apartment building but in a remote farm home in an unspecified state.

Lawrence stars as a young woman who’s renovating a home with her older husband, a poet and author played by Javier Bardem. Neither character has a name other than Mother and Him. So you get the idea rather quickly that we’re in the land of the metaphorical.

Bardem’s author is suffering from writer’s block, and Lawrence’s character seems strangely uneasy with the noises and mysteries of the home that she’s trying to tame into submission by installing new plumbing and plastering. Strangely, no handymen seem to be present. They’re all alone.

Then one day there’s a knock on the door. It’s Ed Harris, playing a visitor. He’s a smoker, and he hacks and wheezes, and Bardem’s character, who tells his wife that he doesn’t know the man, still allows him to stay for the night.

Then the stranger’s wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, shows up. And she starts asking strange and probing questions about whether Lawrence’s character is taking sedatives and whether she wants kids.

It’s all quite a mess for Lawrence’s character, who just wants to get pregnant but can’t get her husband to make love. He’s a temperamental sort, hanging around in his study but never producing a line of poetry.

The unexpected guests keep showing up, and Lawrence’s Mother keeps wondering what’s going on. But to tell much more about the plot would ruin the experience. Let’s just say that writer/director Aronofsky, who previously brought us “Requiem for a Dream” and “Black Swan,” usually goes beyond what you might expect. And that’s certainly the case with “Mother!”

Of all the movies that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, not one has caused so much controversy and divisiveness as “Mother!” After the first press screening, some hailed it as a classic, while others expressed disgust for what they had seen. Few folks were in between.

Regardless of how you react, you should probably know that the movie can be viewed as a fable about the creative process — about the pains and struggles of creating a work of art.

Others will see it as full of misogyny because of the extreme emotional and physical abuse that Lawrence’s character suffers. But that argument runs into a big problem when you consider the movie’s point of view — which is distinctly feminine.

The climactic scenes feature some of the most feverish and brilliant editing ever seen on the big screen. Matthew Libatique should get kudos for his cinematography, while Andrew Weisblum was the frenetic editor.

If you’re an adventurous filmgoer, you’ll want to see this one. If not, then stay at home. You will probably be offended. You’ve been warned.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

Are there black bears in Central Texas?
Are there black bears in Central Texas?

If you’ve traveled to West Texas, you’re likely aware of the danger of black bears. But black bears in Austin are unheard of, right? Well, not exactly. According to Texas Hill Country, black bears used to be plentiful all across Texas, but over the years, populations have decreased. However, recent sightings may indicate they’re making...
What to do on Memorial Day weekend 2018 in Austin
What to do on Memorial Day weekend 2018 in Austin

Memorial Day weekend doesn’t just give us an extra day off work — it also marks the beginning of summer. Here’s how to celebrate during all three days. Friday, May 25: Real Ale’s Galactic Hans Launch. Real Ale collaborated with the Alamo Drafthouse to create a Galactic version of their beloved Hans Pils in celebration of...
Ariana Grande talks split from Mac Miller, calls relationship ‘toxic’
Ariana Grande talks split from Mac Miller, calls relationship ‘toxic’

Ariana Grande got candid about the end of her relationship with rapper Mac Miller in the form of a lengthy reply to a Twitter user. The singer, 24, split from Miller, 26, in April after two years together. >> Read more trending news  Although initial reports -- and an Instagram story from Grande -- indicated an amicable, mutual split, Grande...
So long to the downtown Ginger Man, which is moving to new East Austin location
So long to the downtown Ginger Man, which is moving to new East Austin location

It’s the end of an era for longtime patrons of the downtown Ginger Man, one of Austin’s very first bars focused on craft beer — the bar on Lavaca Street is closing for good over Memorial Day weekend. But don’t worry, the shutter isn’t for long: The Ginger Man is relocating to one of the hottest East Austin redevelopment...
Here are 30 must-see movies from the Paramount Summer Classic series
Here are 30 must-see movies from the Paramount Summer Classic series

More than 110 movies are screening this summer as part of the Paramount Summer Classic film series. Here are 30 not to miss. There are others worth seeing, of course, but are 30 really good ones. “Stormy Weather” (7 p.m. May 31) This 1943 picture remains one of the most important musicals ever made (what with its staggering African-American...
More Stories