This divisive psychological thriller is cunning but too chaotic to be understood.
"Mother!" is the equivalent of getting caught up in a never-ending nightmare. Oscar-nominated director and writer Darren Aronofsky goes off the deep end in this bizarre and incredibly insidious piece of filmmaking.
As the film opens, the camera is fixated on a young woman's face which is badly burned. It then employs a very spooky manner of flashing back (or forward, you never really know) to a couple living in a huge, Gothic-like home. From the onset we sense that something's askew with the husband (Javier Bardem) and his wife (Jennifer Lawrence), who remain nameless, as do all of the film's characters. She's loving, he's aloof. Right off it eerily feels like Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby."
Enter: uninvited guest in the form of Ed Harris who mysteriously mistakes their home for a Bed and Breakfast. The husband immediately warms up to him as the wife finds it irritating. The next day uninvited guest's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up and immediately makes herself at home. The husband acts as though it's perfectly natural to be opening his home to utter strangers as the wife is so shocked that she begins to slowly unravel. Let's face it. She deserves to be confused.
It gets better. The stranger's two sons arrive and and soon one kills the other. Suddenly, the homeowners are hosting a massive wake with unruly squatters. Finally the wife convinces them to leave. Before too long she becomes pregnant, he finishes writing his book and a whole new group of people inundate their property (including Kristin Wiig). Seems that they look upon the husband as a messiah. All hell breaks loose, literally.
One has come to expect great work from Aronofsky ("Black Swan" "The Wrestler"). He's known for being edgy and avant-garde in many respects, think "Requiem for a Dream" in 2000. But although there's some very sophisticated camerawork going on in "Mother!," the psychological mayhem is overwhelming. Vague references to a crystal, flushing fetuses, yellow drug drinking and blood seeping through floors are lost in reference to the big picture...whatever that may be. Surely Aronofsky has a message he's putting forth in this eerily esoteric and chaotic film, but can it be grasped?
Lawrence, Bardem, Harris and, especially, Pfeiffer give great performances. They evoke a plethora of confusing and frightening reaction on the part of their audience. But "Mother!" begs the question, can tremendous star power save a disoriented and deeply disturbing film? Somewhat.