The first reviews for Darren Aronofsky’s mother! praises the film for being an impressively stylized and provocative horror/thriller, if also one that is bound to prove divisive with general audiences. This wouldn’t be the first occasion where one of Aronofsky’s movies turned out to be rather polarizing, either. After all, he is the same filmmaker who’s responsible for The Fountain – a sometimes-confounding phantasmagorical yarn where Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz play multiple characters – as well as the controversial big-budget Biblical retelling Noah (featuring giant fallen angels that look like the Rockbiter from The Neverending Story).
Trailers for mother! have already prompted comparisons between the movie and Aronofsky’s Osar-winning 2010 film Black Swan, in the sense that both are psychological thrillers that revolve around a young woman (played by Jennifer Lawrence in mother!) who may or may not be losing her mind. Lawrence costars in mother! alongside Javier Bardem, playing a couple whose quiet life together is shattered when mysterious, uninvited guests begin arriving and taking up residence in their home. Based on the initial reviews for the movie following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, mother! is as much a showcase foremost for Lawrence as Black Swan was for Natalie Portman.
For more on what critics are saying about mother! so far, check out the following spoiler-free review excerpts below (and click on the corresponding links to read the reviews in full):
THR – Todd McCarthy
Writer-director Darren Aronofsky wants to have his commercial cake and chomp down on some vexing personal issues, too, in mother!, a very Rosemary’s Baby-like intimate horror tale that definitely grabs your attention and eventually soars well over the top to make the bold concluding statement that, for some creators, art is more important than life. How the film’s compelling star Jennifer Lawrence may feel about this sentiment is another matter, but this is a tale that, like any number of fanciful genre outings, both pulls you in with its intriguing central dramatic situation and pushes you out with some mightily far-fetched plot contrivances.
Indiewire – Jessica Kiang
[“mother!”] uncoils from a murderously tense, tricky and claustrophobic first hour into some of the most sustained escalating insanity (and scorchingly brilliant filmmaking) ever to burn down a cinema screen. An incendiary religious allegory, a haunted-house horror, a psychological head trip so extreme it should carry a health warning and an apologia for crimes of the creative ego past and not yet committed, it’s not just Aronofsky’s most bombastic, ludicrous and fabulous film, spiked with a kind of reckless, go-for-broke, leave-it-all-up-there-on-the-screen abandon, it is simply one of the most films ever.
Variety – Owen Gleiberman
If the only thing we wanted, or expected, a horror film to do was to get a rise out of you – to make your eyes widen and your jaw drop, to leave you in breathless chortling spasms of WTF disbelief – then Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” would have to be reckoned some sort of masterpiece. As it is, the movie, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as a woman who slips down a rabbit hole of paranoid could-this-be-happening? reality… is far from a masterpiece. It’s more like a dazzlingly skillful machine of virtual reality designed to get nothing but a rise out of you. It’s a baroque nightmare that’s about nothing but itself.
Screen Daily – Fionnuala Halligan
mother! is a personal, end-of-days statement which expresses the angst of these times as well as a deep-seated and bloody loathing for them. It’s an unusual studio picture from Paramount: like much the rest of Aronofsky’s work it will divide and stimulate audiences and critics, but should still be hailed as an original, strikingly unconventional piece on its US commercial release September 15 (shortly after its Venice and Toronto premieres). Awards play seems likely, particularly for Aronofsky’s muse Jennifer Lawrence, embodying and responding to all his considerable neuroses, fears and desires, as an artist, a lover, and a citizen of the planet.
Collider – Brian Formo
mother! isn’t quite as fascinating as it thinks it is, and the hellish setting perhaps goes too far, but it is relentless and it sure is something that needs to be experienced. It’s extremely adventurous and is willingly open to both praise and snickers. What was fascinating, for me, was how the audience I saw it with reacted so primal, not too different from the freakish audience in the movie. I was surrounded by shrieks, yawns, laughter, smiles and a man who yelled “fuck you” at the screen as soon as the credits started. You’ll either get something you want from mother! or you’ll feel like you were robbed. And I think that’s pretty exciting for the current studio climate. Nothing is safe about mother! And that’s thrilling for an artist like Aronofsky.
The marketing for mother! has openly invited comparisons between Aronofsky’s film and director Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror classic Rosemary’s Baby – a film that most of the early reviews for mother! likewise name-drop (in a good way) as being a transparent influence on Aronofsky’s latest cinematic descent into madness, much like Polanski’s Repulsion was frequently cited as being an obvious influence on Black Swan. Ed Harris (Westworld) and Michelle Pfeiffer (The Wizard of Lies) round out the main cast of mother! and, like Bardem, are receiving top marks for their respective performances in the film thus far. However, much like Black Swan was Portman’s show first and foremost, these reviews indicate that Lawrence is the main attraction in mother! (somewhat literally, as one review notes that Lawrence is credited for being in more than half of every single shot in the film).
Whereas Portman wound up taking home her first Best Actress Oscar victory for Black Swan, Lawrence already has one acting Academy Award to her name (for the film Silver Linings Playbook) – meaning the odds might not be as much in her favor of picking up a second Oscar already for mother!, despite the buzz that she has already begun generating ahead of the proper start of the Hollywood awards season this year. Likewise, mother! is already drawing some of the same style-over-substance criticisms that were leveled against Black Swan, with the addendum that mother! is even more out-there and over the top bizarre by comparison. While this might make mother! a must-see for those who were hardcore fans of Aronofsky’s previous directorial efforts, it could make it difficult for the film to achieve crossover appeal (hurting its awards season prospects, in the process).
Source: Various (see the above links)
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