Sep-19-2017

Reel Snippet – Mother!

Summary: In the middle of nowhere, there stands a house with two occupants: a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who is trying to restore it after a fire and her husband (Javier Bardem) who is stuck with writer’s block while trying to write his next book. Their home is finally coming together when a man (Ed Harris) comes to their doorstep to see the author, having been inspired by his work. The woman is unsure of this stranger, but her husband invites him to stay despite her protests. Soon the man’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) comes to their door, followed by their two feuding sons (Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson) and soon even more people. Despite all of her hard work, the house is being trodden upon by these careless strangers and it’s all the author’s wife can do to keep herself — and the house she worked on — together.

Review: Mother! is going to leave a lot of people confused, myself included (at least until I looked at the Wikipedia page), as it’s not entirely clear from the outside what exactly is going on. The line between what’s cause and effect and what’s allegory is fuzzier than the average Build-A-Bear product. How much time is really passing? Were the people called to the house or did they search it out? What does Javier Bardem’s character really want? It’s all so vague that it adds to the feeling of discomfort. Then again, considering this came from the director of Black Swan, that’s par for the course.

This movie feels like it was written for introverted women as I can see them being the most terrified at the events here. Having your home invaded by people who refuse to give you peace and privacy or listen when you’re saying no… actually, it goes further than that. These intruders don’t give her a single ounce of respect, painting her walls without permission, shove past her even when she was waiting for something, and even treat her warnings of fragile appliances with utter contempt. When she gets harsh and asserts herself, she’s pelted with derogatory insults and even physically assaulted. It’s as if she has no real autonomy in anyone’s eyes and not even respected by her own husband… in short, every woman’s nightmare.

Considering this movie is allegory-as-reality, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. In a medium populated with monster clowns, masked intruders, and psychotic racists, audiences will probably want something more literal. And that’s okay. Part of the charm of film is that there’s something for everyone, whether it’s artsy and cerebral or straightforward and direct. As for me, despite some strange pacing in areas, I thoroughly appreciated it, particularly the general sense of unease from never really knowing what’s going on, and know quite a few colleagues who would too.

I may have to do a musing on this…

Fun Tidbit: Say what you will about the two main actresses, but they are committed to the trade. Jennifer Lawrence got so into character in the final, hectic scenes that she actually started hyperventilating and broke a rib. And Michelle Pfeiffer? She didn’t understand the script at all when she read it, calling it esoteric, but she dove into the role and gave it her all. Like I said, committed.


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