Age of ‘mother!’ during the ‘Age of Ultron’: Auteur vs Tentpole

Full disclosure, I will not spoil ‘mother!‘ (but you can read our review here), I think it’s incredibly vital to the film and the filmmakers that most of the film stay under wraps. For better or worse, I went into the film as blind as I could and left…blind with fury.

Now, I’ll admit wholeheartedly that surrealist films and those that get lost in their own message and metaphors infuriate me. Not because I don’t get it, but because of the people that applaud and celebrate these films like they are the second coming of some long-lost messiah. These are films, yes, and they deserve to be celebrated, but don’t look toward your nose at those that enjoy films that involve The Avengers assembling, or men dressed as bats beating up clowns. All film deserves to be celebrated, so what makes ‘mother!’ worthy of discussion and this essay?

Well, ‘mother! is a unique story in today’s world. In the Hollywood machine of bigger and badder VFX and stars cross pollinating in so many films that it’s enough to make your head spin, ‘mother!’ proves to be a breath of…well, not fresh, but air nonetheless. It’s different–and says a lot, but the message gets lost.

Without giving too much away, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are trying to create a new life together. The house, once in shambles, has gone under a tremendous transformation thanks in part to Lawrence’s hard work and dedication; while Bardem, a struggling poet, attempts to write his next opus. There’s a lot of other stuff at play here, but overall that’s the story. It’s simple in it’s premise, but goes far and beyond the traditional execution.

Subjectively speaking, the film is tremendous in terms of capturing what it’s like to be struggling artist and so insecure in your abilities that you can end up damaging a life that you had. Or maybe you never had it? Who knows. And that’s the problem with ‘mother!’. Darren Aronofsky, the maestro behind this piece, never commits to just one metaphor or one thing. It’s a scattershot of different ideas and social commentaries that, just like in the film, produce a level of anxiety and confusion that, while different from the problems of Star-Lord and his estranged father, aren’t necessarily too off base.

You see, ‘mother!’ is Aronofsky’s tentpole film. It’s loud, it’s frantic, it’s busy, and it has bankable stars. This isn’t some indie experimental film, it’s a direct response to what Hollywood is doing. At one point in the film, Bardem’s character becomes obsessed with how people see/celebrate him. And that’s how Hollywood is with the age of geek films. Hollywood only cares and is obsessed with the numbers they produce and that the crowd will continually eat up whatever they put out like it’s their only thing keeping them alive. Which, when you see ‘mother!’ you’ll understand how nihilistic Aronofsky is about his own industry. It’s like he saw ‘The Neon Demon‘ and then went immediately and watched ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and thought that the two had more in common than the traditional film goer. They do, but you have to dig deep and to an uncomfortable level to draw the parallels; which is why I’ll let you all do that instead, to play into what Aronofsky wants out of you.

He doesn’t tell you anything and that’s kind of the point. Many people have pointed to ‘A Clockwork Orange as a good example of what this film is trying to be. However, one of the major differences is that in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ you have some semblance of story. Loose, but it’s there. The characters also have defined arcs and are compelling to watch, instead with ‘mother!‘ the promise of the premise and the world surrounding the characters is far more interesting; much like superhero/geek culture films of today’s world. Not only that, but nearly 45% of the film could be cut out. In fact, I probably would have loved the film if it was 45 minutes long and completely cut out the first and a half acts. The film doesn’t really pick up till the end of Act II, which sits comfortably at about the one hour and thirty minute mark. In a two hour film, you have to keep the audience engaged, not enraged, and I think that’s where ‘mother!’ missteps.

Now, despite what I’ve said and where ‘mother!‘ ranks on my list, it deserves to be seen. I think it’s important for people to go see this type of film for a multitude of reasons. One, it’s a different type of film and therefore should be experienced for just being an anomaly in the organism that is the film industry. Two, the metaphors and hidden meanings of the film stretches far and wide, allowing each person who watches the film to experience something completely different.

And finally, if for nothing else, you can watch seven people walk out of the theater at the halfway point and laugh to yourself because you’ve outlasted them. Or, at least, that was my experience. ‘mother! is out now and is written and directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, and Ed Harris.

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