Counterpoint: Mother! Really Is Bad

Sometimes an F is an F.

It is impossible to discuss this film without spoiling the ever loving shit out of it. So if you haven't seen it yet, come on back when you have.

So, I've been on a rather long sojourn from Finickal, as my work and personal life have taken several turns that have required my full attention. I had planned to come back last week with an essay about how much I enjoyed Andy Muschietti's It, but I found myself repeating what better writers have already said. 

But then, Josh (of Fake Geek Boiz fame) and myself took a trip down to Baltimore's historic Senator Theatre to take in a screening of Darren Aronofsky's mother! See, Josh and I have been Aronofsky champs ever since we met in college. One of our very first meetings, in fact, led to a conversation about how much we loved The Wrestler. That love has extended to Black Swan and Noah, the latter of which I think is one of the great misunderstood auteur pieces of the century.

And, you know what? I joked. I remember joking to Josh, "What if mother! is bad?" Josh and I laughed.

Nah. No way.

Well, when the lights came up (after the theater had recovered from the most intense fit of laughter I'd seen since the opening night of Superbad), Josh and I looked at each other in resigned shock. 

Since mother! received its 'F' Cinemascore, I've witnessed people I respect (and people I don't respect, really) accosting folks for "not getting it". 

What I do not understand is -- Who the fuck doesn't get this movie? Is it a treatise about humanity's relationship with God? I mean, I get it, the basement is Hell, and the sunlit top of the house's spiral (where nobody is allowed to go, get it?) is Heaven. Or is mother! a more thorough examination of the Old Testament, complete with Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as a representation of Adam and Eve (he's got a rib scar DO YA GET IT?) and Domnhall Gleeson with his brother Brian doing a Cain and Abel routine.

Or, is this the single most masturbatory self examination of a director that costs $13.50 to watch? Aronofsky has been public about his current relationship with Jennifer Lawrence, and while they work very well together (on a technical level, you can't argue with this flick), one could argue that the film is about the cyclical nature in which Darren Aronofsky loves and leaves beautiful young women. Wow, what a sad burden this auteur has been saddled with. How upsetting must it be to be Darren Aronofsky?

The simple answer is that mother! is all of these things. And that's fine; nobody ever said a bad movie has to be simple.

We talk about how risky it is -- but how risky is it, really? At the end of the film, Javier Bardem's God character carries the heavily cgi burned Lawrence through the ashes of their home, telling her that the baby couldn't work because humanity didn't love him. An audience member below Josh and I muttered a very exasperated "What the fuck...", which triggered the ocean of laughter I mentioned earlier. Which, to be fair, I'm sure a director like Aronofsky would love a response like that. But, if the movie really wanted to be risky (or as subtle as it purports), this scene wouldn't be in mother! -- the film would have ended 10 minutes ago. 

When mother! isn't trying its hardest to be the worst Shel Silverstein poem ever, it's not without its faults. Pfeiffer torches the screen every time she's in frame, and the literally bonkers turn in the third act - which involves a full blown military strike and baby eating - demands to be witnessed. The languid hour and a half it takes to get to that point, however, is like a sketch out of Tim and Eric, hammering the same premise that the movie thinks you can't possibly understand over your head until you're bleeding.

I don't need to waste any time talking to you about camera techniques, impeccable sound design, and editing -- that's all there, and if that's the only reason why you go to see films, then by all means here's your pornography for 2017.

mother! is a very stupid movie masquerading as a smart one behind a well executed production, a directorial pedigree, and a very game star. There is not one thing in the film that isn't directly force fed to you. There are no hidden gems of meaning to be unearthed.

Man, anyway I don't know. There were two fucking hurricanes this month. Stop blaming folks in Florida for going to see the safe bet (which is It, by the way), when they want to escape. Audiences, from time to time, are smarter than they're given credit for.

Thank God (not Darren) for Moviepass.

Terry Erickson is a screenwriter, lifelong film fan, and all around good guy based in Baltimore, MD. He's driven across America twice, is obsessed with Back To The Future, and loves almost everybody.