Review of Darren Aronofsky's "Mother!"

There is my 10 minutes, spoiler-ridden review of this movie. In short, don't go see it.

I loved Black Swan and had a lot of respect for Requiem for a Dream, so as soon as I heard this movie was coming out, I bought tickets to see it without even seeing a preview or reading about it. I only heard that there were some controversial aspects.

I'll save you the trouble of seeing it: the main thing that probably bothered people is that there is a scene where a baby is taken away by a crowd, killed, ripped to shreds, and then eaten as a form of communion. Maybe I've watched too many horror movies, but this didn't disturb me that much. The scene immediately after, when the crowd turns on Jennifer Lawrence and starts beating her, kicking and stomping on her when she's on the ground, was more disturbing to me, but mainly because I thought it was headed towards a rape and that they were going to show it. (at that point, I would have thought they were depicting a rape for the sake of being shocking--more on that later.)

It's hard for me to articulate why this movie bothered me, and it appears that some of my reasons don't line up with what others are saying.

I do agree with the general puzzlement that most reviewers, mainly, WTF is this movie about. First it's one thing: this woman is rebuilding her husband's house after it had been burned down while he bitches and moans about the fact that he can't write (poetry) anymore. Then a rando stranger (Ed Harris) shows up, and it turns out he is secretly a huge fan of Javier Bardem's poetry. Bardem invites him into the house despite what Jennifer Lawrence feels comfortable with, then his creepy wife shows up. So maybe this story is about the accommodations we make for our spouses when we really don't want to when their egos need stroking.  Then their two kids show up fighting about a will and one son kills the other. Reviewers have posited that maybe it's a Cain and Abel story.

Then some uninvited guests start showing up for the wake. This is where the movie seems to take a turn from what had originally felt like maybe a creepy home invasion movie, or maybe something like The Invitation (2015). Here it turns into an increasingly ridiculous conceit. The wife decides she wants to have a baby. They make one and this seems to have unblocked the husband's writers block. He demands a pen immediately and takes out his inkwell to write poetry! Within minutes, his publisher calls him, and then you hear that his poetry book has sold out. (this guy incidentally, apparently makes a full time living as a poet who doesn't write and his wife also doesn't appear to work and they can afford a nice house without having to teach or anything. also, a poetry book selling Fans show up and the wife gets increasingly disturbed as the party gets more and more raucous, eventually descending into chaos, war, violence, destruction, etc.

Here's where I differed from other people's reaction to this movie.  Hollywood continues to be so white that the casting of minorities feels really intentional. When the uninvited guests start showing up for the wake, I couldn't help but notice that a lot of them were minorities- maybe it was only thirty percent, maybe it was twenty percent. But the guests start destroying the house essentially, literally tearing down the walls and breaking things, while Jennifer Lawrence is screaming, "What are you doing, this is my house!" I started to feel uncomfortable that the movie was making an awkward point about immigration. Because the "uninvited" guests are certainly terribly and entitled, making themselves at home while a white Aryan woman is disturbed by their presence. But because she is the protagonist, and the guests are absurd, the viewer has to side with her.

I kept getting pulled out of the movie with scenes like this.  There are scenes where riot police and these uninvited guests (many of whom were minorities) are clashing-- I cannot watch that and not think about the current sociopolitical context of both protestors and Black Lives Matter. There are scenes where people in the house who are desperately trying to escape the war that has broken out are locked behind barbed wire gates. I can't see that and not think about the current refugee crisis. The most disturbing scene from me wasn't the baby supper, but a scene where people lying on the ground with their bags over their heads are shot point blank one by one. I was completely pulled out of the movie because I thought about how I have seen real videos like that. All for what?  The closest thing this movie comes to being about something is about how the male artist can take and take and the woman keeps on giving even though it is her undoing. I am okay with the depiction of violence, but when it touches close to reality, it's only worth it if it brings something to the table about that issue, or if it doesn't, at least that it treats it with respect.  Sexual assault survivors have been making the same argument about the depiction of rape in TV and movies--that it not be for the sake of shock value, or shoddy storytelling, but that it actually respect the people who have been through this trauma. I don't take depictions of war lightly.  I think you can make silly movies that you're not supposed to take seriously that involve "war" (eg, any superhero movie), and you can make serious movies that are making points about war and its costs (eg, Born on the 4th of July). But to use all these extreme acts of violence as a metaphor about how male artists are self-absorbed struck me as a mismatch between very real geopolitical conflicts and the stupidity that is the idea of a poet who writes with an inkwell and somehow has an income that supports a wife who doesn't work.