REVIEW: Jennifer Lawrence thriller ‘mother!’ is gratuitous excuse for shock value


‘mother!’ movie poster

Benjamin VanHoose

Where to begin with this piece of work?

From the mind of “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, “mother!” is a thriller sure to divide moviegoers curious enough to buy into its ambiguous ad campaign. There’s no denying it’s the year’s most insanely shocking movie, for better or for (mostly) worse.

I won’t even take a stab at describing the plot of “mother!” — not only because I’m still not entirely sure what I watched, but because the film is best experienced with as few preconceived notions as possible.

Here, Jennifer Lawrence is in a role unlike the strong female leads we’ve come to associate her with. Her character, listed only as Mother in the credits, is naive and passive to a fault.

Down to the way she walks and talks, the Oscar winner develops a meekness that not only makes her eventual outbursts even more alarming in contrast, but has viewers suffering along with every blow she is dealt.

The standout of the movie is actually not seen, but heard. While the sound design is anything but subtle, the audio elements expertly cultivate tension and suspense guaranteed to boost your anxiety levels.

Essentially, “mother!” consists of two vastly separate movies. The first half is an engaging mystery featuring Ed Harris and an amusingly feisty Michelle Pfeiffer.

The second half? An absolutely berzerk sensory onslaught, riddled with twists that justify the exclamation mark in the title.

Even though the more I stress the final act’s insanity the more you’ll likely want to purchase a ticket, heed this warning: “mother!” ventures to some unspeakably dark places.

Lines are crossed that will either leave you in awe of its boldness or offended by its tastelessness. No matter your reaction, your jaw will most certainly drop in both instances.

What’s most shocking is that Aronofsky would write such disturbing situations for real life girlfriend Lawrence to act out. In particular, one extended sequence of violence involving the lead actress forced an appalled gasp from me as I squirmed in my seat.

At best, “mother!” is metaphorically muddled. The plot is wide open for interpretation and bound to inspire endless internet theories.

Any metaphors or deeper meanings intended by the script are so bogged down in abstract wildness that, in the end, the upsetting violence just amounts to upsetting violence for the sake of shock value.

As far as what “mother!” is about, any guess is as good as mine since I’m still baffled beyond explanation.

Walking out of the silent theater after the movie, I noticed two women in the back row who looked stunned. “What did we just watch?” I asked them, hoping it wasn’t only me that felt confused.

One woman quickly responded, “I have no clue.”

But maybe that’s the point?

Grade: C+

Benjamin VanHoose is the entertainment reviewer. Contact him at [email protected]