Is mother! worth seeing?
The short answer: yes, but not why you might think.
As a self-proclaimed movie lover and critic of everything, the bewilderingly intriguing (yet mostly negative) reviews of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem had my curiosity going wild, mainly because no one wanted to give up the basic plot. Even the actors themselves danced around answers during the press tour, making it hard to pinpoint what exactly we would all be watching. I decided to read just a few reviews from some well-known sources before going to make my own judgment of the work. Then, I went yesterday – here is what I thought. Spoiler alert: I don’t want to ruin mother! for you, so proceed with caution.
In a giant, broken-down house occupied by two nameless people in a relationship –we’ll refer to Jennifer as Mother and call Bardem’s character, Him or ‘her husband’ – a strange and horrifying turn of events occurs over the course of a little over a nine-month period after one suspicious, uninvited guest comes over to stay the night. Mother seems to play it safe by staying relatively mum, ignoring her intuition while playing homemaker to her husband, a successful writer experiencing a frustrating case of writer’s block. Throughout the movie, he wants little to do with her besides confirmation that she is, in fact, there by his side through it all. However, most days he wants to be left alone to his own creative devices in the house’s study with his sacred stone. Meanwhile, Lawrence’s character tends to the house, cooking him meals, painting their walls, and cleaning up the bloodstained floorboards. And no, I’m joking.
The feminist in me couldn’t help but immediately be disgusted by the sexualization of the opening scene, as well as many throughout the movie, of Mother’s body. Later when I was told by a friend that the movie was intended to be one long metaphor for Mother Nature, God, Adam, and Eve, I winced even harder at this Aronofsky guy, mostly due to the juxtaposition in purity and innocence portrayed by Lawrence’s character while exploiting her breasts and figure in sheer dresses and quick, casual acts of sexual assault by both male and female characters alike. Mother, who appears to be mostly angelic and obedient, doesn’t cease to silence herself throughout the entire storyline, even when she notices a body part wash up in her toilet drain, watches her husband invites strangers to host a wake at their home, and witnesses his publicist order the executions of fans of her his book. Much of this happens while she is going into labor with their first child, no less.
Being a bystander to a women who doesn’t speak up is cringe worthy for more reasons that one, especially when I know that as only one person, I feel like I cannot do much to effect instant results for building one’s sense of self-worth.
When I find myself having these shake-my-head-and-look-away moments while watching a movie, I feel sad to some extent.
By knowing that society and its unfortunate power players have so long perpetuated certain ideologies into impressionable and underrepresented minds, it is disheartening to know that someone in the publishing house or the cutting room floor probably affirmed Aronofsky with a “This is brilliant! Let’s do it!” Even if, at the very least, the director himself thought this plot would garner the respect within his community while deciding that testing the psychological limits of his real-life partner for the role would be a good fit for the film and his own creative process, forces a gross taste of misogynist reality in my mouth.
Noting other obvious details of the story like the age gap between Mother and Him, as well as the stark difference in lifestyle and mindset –the submissive, silenced homemaker versus the adventitious, erratic creative—I could relate to parts of the plot having to do with the dynamic of any relationship with an artist who is, essentially, married to his work first and foremost. At the end when Mother begs, “Why wasn’t I enough?” her husband says, “Nothing is ever enough. We couldn’t create if it was.”
I made every attempt to separate fact from fiction but failed considerably. In doing so, I will conclude that for the true artist in you, this film is worth reviewing. For the feminist of highest self-consciousness in you, I’d say: consider the turmoil you will endure while watching mother!.
Did you see mother!?
What did you think? Let me know — I’m on Instagram and Twitter @devrivelazquez
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