Movie Review: "Mother!"
A young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a house in a remote location with her husband (Javier Bardem). After a bad fire, the house is in desperate need of repairs. While her author husband is busy trying to create his next great masterpiece, the young woman is busy fixing the house and making it feel like a home. One night, a strange man (Ed Harris) shows up at the front door and in need of a place to stay. The author gladly invites him to stay at the house. In the following nights, strange things begin to occur as the strange man's family starts showing up to stay at the house as well. As the days go by, everything starts getting crazy as the strangers begin to feel like the house belongs to them as well.
The young woman does not know why her husband is so quick to bring these strangers in, but they keep pushing their limits and keep being destructive in the house. In order to save the house, the young woman has to try to convince her husband to send the strangers away before they destroy everything she has worked so hard to fix.
The Pros & Cons
No Statement (-4pts)
Jennifer Lawrence (+8pts)
Nonsensical Plot (-10pts)
Javier Bardem (+6pts)
Chaotic Ending (-5pts)
Pro: Metaphors (+6pts)
I will do my best to avoid spoilers at this point, but there are a ton of metaphors in this film. I will not say what those metaphors are, but they address things like humanity, our impact on this planet, and creation. I will not go any further into what they are because figuring that out is what this film is all about. That being said, I do think audiences will have a better experience with this movie if they realize that there is so much more here than what meets the eye.
Realize that as crazy as the film gets (and it gets extremely crazy), there is absolutely nothing random that happens in this house. Everything has some sort of meaning behind it, so be sure to watch the film with that in mind. Pay attention to everything you see and ask yourself questions like, "What does that mean?", "What does that character represent?", and "What is the metaphor that explains what that character is doing?"
There are a crazy amount of metaphors and symbolism throughout the film. The characters, the house, where the characters are standing, what the characters are doing, what floor the characters are on, and so on. All of these things have some sort of meaning and the film throws so much of it at you that there is no possible way that a viewer could catch all of it in their first viewing. This is a crazy movie, but it was fun to try to speculate what and where the metaphors were.
Con: No Statement (-4pts)
This film has so much to say but it ends up saying nothing. Sounds like a complicated idea, I know, but what I mean by that is that the film throws such an incredibly large amount of symbolism at the audience that it ends up being unable to add much significant focus to any one piece of symbolism. So it has a ton of symbolism, but it does not use it effectively. The movie makes no statement as to what the audience should take away (or learn) from the film. It basically just throws an insane amount of symbolism at the audience and says, "Take away from this film whatever you want to take away from it".
Some say that's what makes it art. I disagree, I think that is what makes the filmmakers lazy. They did not want to make a stance or a statement on anything, so they produced a vague movie with a ton of symbolism and let the audience figure it out. Unfortunately, there is not much to figure out. My comments to the filmmakers (who of course read my reviews...) is to remember quality over quantity. Your movie being good is not dependent on how many metaphors you can cram into it. Your movie being good is dependant on the quality of those metaphors.
Some may think that this movie is about climate change. Others may think it is about the biblical apocalypse. Who knows, some may even think that this movie is about Obamacare or the GNC's failed healthcare bill attempts. I know that last one is a stretch but my point is that this film is simply too vague with the statement it is trying to make. As a result, it loses impact with its audience.
Pro: Jennifer Lawrence (+8pts)
This movie simply does not work without a great lead actress. This is especially true when the film was shot using (almost exclusively) close-up views of Jennifer Lawrence's face. The entire film is really from her character's perspective. It is not about the events that occur, it is about her character's reaction to those events.
Fortunately for this film, Lawrence nailed the role and ended up carrying most of the production on her back. With all the craziness that occurs here, her character is just as baffled and confused as the audience is. This lets the audience put themselves in her shoes. Lawrence had to react (to a close-up camera) to a ton of insanity and odd behavior from other characters, all while keeping her reactions unique so that the audience does not lose interest. Doing so many close-ups has to be challenging, but Jennifer Lawrence was able to keep the audience engaged.
Con: Nonsensical Plot (-10pts)
The plot for the film is absolutely insane and makes no sense. The plot could be simplified as "Jennifer Lawrence tries to clean up a house, things get absolutely crazy for no reason." That is what makes the plot so irritating, there is no reason to it. The plot is almost non-existent. Stuff just happens. The filmmakers cared so much about cramming a ton of metaphors into this movie that they never bothered to write an even halfway decent script to tie it all together. This movie is far from perfect, and that is largely due to the fact that everything feels so random and out of place. What is even worse is that I feel like the randomness is another metaphor. Seeing everything from Jennifer Lawrence's perspective would feel random but, when you are making a movie, there needs to be some sort of story for the audience to follow. Otherwise, it is just a meaningless couple of hours.
Pro: Javier Bardem (+6pts)
I will keep this point brief to avoid spoilers, but Javier Bardem did a great job in this movie. The entity he plays (which I will not reveal) has a lot of conflicting emotions. The character is not perfect in the movie, which I believe will anger a lot of people, and his presence in the film will annoy others. I was okay with it for what it was. The character is a metaphor that is used in an attempt to shed light on how our species has impacted this planet. It is a fictitious representation of a very well known figure, but it is fictitious so does not have to be an accurate representation of the figure.
Anyway, Bardem did a great job at capturing the complexity of this entity's emotions. He means well but he is unable to care for everything all at once. So, as he begins to invite strangers into his house, Jennifer Lawrence's entity feels neglected. I liked how this was done and I really enjoyed the scenes between Lawrence and Bardem where his entity tries his best to balance everything.
Con: Chaotic Ending (-5pts)
Okay, this is another point in which I will have to be vague in order to avoid spoilers. The ending of this film is extremely chaotic. There is so much happening and it makes so little sense. This was clearly done intentionally (another metaphor), but it is so chaotic and random that it will jar the audience. This is another example of an area in which the film was too concerned with adding a metaphor and did not care whether or not it made any sense to the audience. Do not get me wrong, I understood what it meant but it felt extremely random and simply did not work for me.
Grade: C+ (76pts)
There are a ton of metaphors in this film, and it was fun to try to guess and speculate what they were and where they were. As I was doing this, I quickly realized that there was absolutely nothing coincidental here; every tiny detail has meaning. It is up to the audience to determine what that meaning is, and that is where I believe the film loses steam. The film crams in so many metaphors that none of them get any proper focus, so they do not end up having any significant impact on the audience. The entire film is up to the audience's interpretation, which means that the person sitting next to you could take away something completely different than you. Maybe that does not sound like a bad thing, but it felt (to me) like lazy writing. Since the filmmakers did not want to make a stance on anything, the film loses impact.
The good parts of the film (along with the puzzle of determining where the metaphors are) were the lead actors. While Javier Bardem did a great job at playing a very complex role, it was Jennifer Lawrence that stole the show. With so many close-ups, the film could have easily fallen apart as the audience loses interest. But Lawrence was able to keep her reactions feeling natural and fresh throughout the entire film. She did a fantastic job here.
This movie has some great pros, but its cons are pretty significant. A nonsensical plot, empty metaphors, and an unnecessarily chaotic ending resulted in the movie feeling like it did not live up to its potential. For a movie that had so much to say, it did a surprisingly poor job of conveying its messages to the audience. Some people will love this movie, others will hate it, and many will fall somewhere in the middle. I think it has something to do with the expectations going into the film. This movie is one big metaphor that is filled with somewhat smaller metaphors. Again, this movie is crazy and ends up feeling shallow (despite all the metaphors) due to a non-existent plot.
That all being said, I recommend seeing this movie because I think that it is a film that will get a reaction out of its audience. Good or bad, you will have plenty of thoughts on this film and it can result in some interesting conversations. However, I do not think you need to rush to the theater to see it. It will cost more money than this movie deserves from you. The film is better off as a rental, in my opinion.