THIS is not a straightforward telling of what is basically a horror story. For director Darren Aronofsky of Black Swan and Fountain fame, such a style for Mother! is par for the course.
The movie feels like the main character, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is in a dream, and later a nightmare. Actually, I dubbed her Jennifer the space cadet. She takes the viewer along for her ride, where we get to see her face in so many closeups, that you begin to hope she has a more expressive face. In fact, I thought she is beginning to look like Renee Zellweger as she matures in real-life.
While, the angle of the hand-held camera is so Blair Witch Project, the elements of story-telling in Mother! are comfortingly familiar enough, For instance, as in Ice Age and numerous other movies, Mother! starts and ends at the same place or character – a golden crystal.
Set in a big, old house in a cleared piece of forest, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are a couple in love. Er, their characters don’t seem to have names, other than “mother” for Lawrence and maybe “man” for Bardem. In fact, no one else does either.
It begins with that crystal, which glows and as the camera sweeps across the corners of the house its light transforms what seems like ruins and rot into fabulous form.
Man is suffering from writer’s block while mother can’t seem to get her flirt on with him. Then a knock on the door wakes them up from their domestic stupor. It’s Ed Harris playing a surgeon, who has just got a job at a nearby hospital, but is in need of a room. People in town told him the house was a bed-and-breakfast, he says.
Turns out Harris is a fan of Man’s writings. The next thing you know, Harris’s wife, (Michelle Pfeiffer) walks into the house, and is slightly crazier a fan of Man’s writing than her husband.
While poking around Man’s study, they break the golden crystal. Yes, these are some weird guests in mother’s house, and they are quite rude to her too. Harris tells her that he thought she was Man’s daughter and not wife. Pfeiffer wants to know all about her sex life.
Suddenly, the guests’ grown sons (played by Brian Gleeson and Domhnall Gleeson), turn up, and one kills the other. After all that tension from the guests, a wonderful thing happens to mother and Man, and she is pregnant, and he finds his mojo.
He says he was inspired by the chaos of his guests. His book is a success, and fans fans start showing up at the house.
Man’s happiness for that adulation, brought to mind the kind of hero worship Bollywood stars get from their fans. But Man is so vain that he succumbs to the crowd. Bedlam starts. The fans start taking things from the house, despite mother saying don’t. They want a piece of Man. Amid this apocalyptic scenario, mother gives birth. Here, it gets a bit diabolically biblical.
In a climax buildup, mother screams “murderers!”. Things run on that aploplexic scale till almost the end, till we are taken back that crystal, to the beginning, as Man tells mother.
If you want to be deep about this move, it has themes on male celebs feeding off the adulation of young adoring women, of celeb-fan madness, of a mother forced to sacrifice her baby to feed the horde… and so on.
There are some unanswered questions like the golden powder Lawrence dissolves in water and gulps when she gets a migraine, or the odd bloody hole in the floor.
But the space cadet needs some emotional pathos for this kind of camera angles, or even this tale. Bardem, on the other hand, and Harris and Pfiffer showcase so much with just those few scenes. But in the end, Mother! is a very strange movie. It makes for interesting conversation but I wouldn’t recommend a second viewing.