At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Mother! “2017”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Mother! “2017”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Psychological Horror/Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson, Jovan Adepo, Emily Hampshire, Chris Gartin, Stephen McHattie, Kristen Wiig, Amanda Warren, Laurence Leboeuf, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse/Runtime: 121 minutes

I think it’s safe to start this review off by letting you all in on a little secret. That being that, despite what the majority of the film community would like you to think, every slice of cinema does have one thing in common. That being that they all, in their own distinct ways, manage to be works of art that can be remembered for at the very least something. Yes, it is after that commonality that we see slices of cinema begin to show their individual level of quality, but even so there is not a doubt in my mind that a movie can be the worst or best thing you have ever seen in your entire life and yet even with that in mind, it will still be a movie that you remember for a long time after that due to that exact reason. The reason I bring this up to you incidentally is because it is my sneaking suspicion that the slice of cinema I am reviewing for you today, 2017’s Mother!, will be one movie that I don’t think you will be forgetting for quite a while. Sure, this slice of cinema is one that is perhaps one of the more recent examples of the word “divisive” being vividly brought to life that I have had the…..pleasure (I think) of seeing due to a combination of both certain elements about it that are best left for you to discover for yourself to say nothing of the plain and simple fact that this slice of cinema is willing to go places that perhaps a more “conventional” big studio film might raise an eyebrow and have extreme reservations about going due to the unpleasantness at the heart of them. Even with that in mind, however there is no denying that this slice of cinema is one that does prove to be quite potent with how it operates as not just a film, but also as an ever-escalating trip into a waking nightmare that we are led on by skilled work both behind the camera and in front of the camera by a genuinely talented cast of players. Thus no this slice of cinema is most definitely not going to be everyone’s favorite cup of espresso and no it is also not a flawless film by any stretch, but if you do decide to give it a chance then be prepared. Not just for what you are about to see, but also for the fact that you are about to go on quite the memorable journey. One that may certainly leave you confused if not a bit shaken, but that also you won’t ever be able to shake as hard as you may try to do so.

The plot is as follows: Taking place by and large in an isolated yet quite grand Victorian-style house in the middle of the countryside….somewhere, this slice of cinema gets underway, following a rather distinct opening, at a spot in time that we are all familiar with to some degree or another. That being as a lovely young woman wakes up one morning looking for her husband who has already gotten up and started his day. We rather quickly learn that the husband is a world-famous member of that quite gifted community known as poets though here lately it seems that, despite all his talent and skill, he has been afflicted with that infamous writing ailment known as writer’s block. As a result, we see that the relationship between the writer and his wife/creative muse is loving to be sure, but also just a tad bit on the strained side as well. Yet as strained as the relationship between the two is however dear reader, it isn’t long before we see that the two are about to be put through a rather unique test of sorts. This is because one night whilst relaxing with a roaring fire in the fireplace, there is a knock at the door. A knock that, it is soon revealed, came from a man outside who was erroneously told the home was a bed and breakfast, but is still quite excited to be there due to being a fan of the husband’s work. We soon see that, against the wishes of our intrepid heroine, her husband generously (?) permits the man to stay the night in their home. However, when the man’s arrival is soon followed up by the arrival of his wife and their 2 squabbling boys amongst a swarm of other people it quickly becomes clear that what our heroine’s husband has invited into what was quite the idyllic home is more than just the most dysfunctional family unit this side of the Bundys from Married with Children. Rather, he has also inadvertently opened the door for a rather unique breed of madness. A breed that, by the time this slice of cinema is over, will make its mark on our heroine, her husband, everyone else, and even you the viewer in ways that you could never imagine at best and at worst leave you, much like our poor psychologically besieged heroine, feeling like you have just been dropped face first into one of the most surreal and anxiety-inducing nightmares you could have ever thought possible……

Now for a slice of cinema that is this divisive, it is perhaps a bit curious to note that the work done behind the camera is, more or less, quite capably done. This starts with the work done by Aronofsky at the helm and, much like he decided to take a long-term loan from a movie known as Repulsion in order to aid him in the making of 2010’s Black Swan, we see that with this slice of cinema is *ahem* “inspired” in some ways by the iconic 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby. Not just in the overall claustrophobic vibe present fairly consistently throughout, but also in how it presents us with a look at domestic bliss that swiftly turns both nefarious and twisted in equal measure. Along with that, we see that the stylish work at the helm from Aronofsky not only gives us as movie goers a quick yet clear and concise rundown of where the movie is taking place, but by choosing to deny this movie a proper musical accompaniment we see that this enables the creepy vibes present to be elevated even higher than normal. As a result, every time the floorboards make a noise or we hear voices inside the house the chills are able to reach our spine and the hairs on the back of our necks are able to stand on end that much quicker. Along with that, we see that not only does this slice of cinema possess terrific work from the sound design department (especially when we get to hear some truly haunting screams from Lawrence as the film goes on), but the work done by the cinematography department also does a great job at selling us on the anxiety and eventual terror felt by our heroine as she has to deal with easily some of the worst houseguests ever. Finally, it should also be pointed out that the work on this film from a visual perspective, by and large, does a wonderful job at making this feel less like a movie made today and more like one that was made back in the 1970s and had only recently been found in a vault somewhere and a decision was reached to show to as massive of an audience as possible. With all of this positivity behind the camera though, there is one arena that is where this slice of cinema does run into more than its fair share of hiccups. That being in regards to the script. Now I have no doubt that this script is purposefully supposed to be more than slightly enigmatic and in that regard it definitely works. However, when not only does the script give off the vibe of being a bit more one-dimensional when compared to everything else both behind and in front of the camera, but it is also extremely allegorical thus causing people just the tiniest bit of confusion in regards to trying to unravel just what in the heck is really going on I think it’s safe to say your movie’s level of quality isn’t going to be as great as it could be otherwise. Even with the Tylenol-vital to comprehend script in mind though, there is no denying how potently made this slice of cinema is from a behind the camera perspective.

Of course, the other big component to any slice of cinema working as well as it aspires to would have to be the work done by the cast of players that are assembled in front of the camera to bring the film’s respective characters to life. In that regard, it should be said that this film might be divisive overall, but the work done by the cast in this is most assuredly quite good. This starts with Jennifer Lawrence in the titular role and she is phenomenal. Indeed not only does she give her all and then some to this performance, but she also does a great job at making the downright draining from both a physical and psychological plight this poor woman goes through throughout this slice of cinema’s 121-minute runtime in the form of her idyllic life being invaded by these more or less hostile individuals and then some not only relatable, but even heartbreaking as well. Thus it’s clear to me that Jennifer Lawrence is one of the more talented performers of her generation and it is performances in movies like this to say nothing of Winter’s Bone and Silver Linings Playbook, and not X-Men: Dark Phoenix, that help to show us just that. Besides the wonderful work done by Lawrence, we also get a fairly good performance from the always engaging whenever he shows up in something Javier Bardem as the titular character’s husband (credited at the end simply as Him). Indeed Bardem has, since his breakout performance in 2007’s No Country for Old Men, been one actor who I have always felt gives his all no matter the overall quality of the film in question and that is definitely the cast here as well since Bardem does a wonderful job at playing this guy with both an air of mystery and reservedness to be sure, but also a fantastic degree of pathos be it in the moments where he is smiling, frustrated, laughing, deadly serious, or even mournful especially in a few key points that I shan’t spoil here. We also see that reinforcing the work done by both Lawrence and Bardem is the performances given by screen icons Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as the man and woman who set this slice of cinema’s nightmare in motion. Indeed in regards to the former, I have long felt that Ed Harris is a screen icon with few equals and here he does a great job at playing this guy who you are never quite sure what to make of since for every instance where he seems like a decent enough chap, Harris does a great job at following it up with a moment where something about this guy just seems a bit off thus constantly keeping us on our toes whenever he is present in the overall movie. That latter quality could also easily describe the terrific work done here by Michelle Pfeiffer as the man’s more than slightly nosy, fond of drink, and even snooty wife. Indeed Pfeiffer does an amazing job at not only making this character someone who is easy to revile, but also one that consistently proves to be a thorn in the side of the main character. Suffice it to say that when you also factor in fairly intriguing turns here from Domhnall Gleason and his real-life brother Brian, Jovan Adepo (who was electrifying in the 2016 cinematic adaptation of the play Fences), iconic character actor Stephen McHattie, and even Kristen Wiig who manages to excel in what is very much a non-comedic role amongst others it’s clear that the work done by this slice of cinema’s cast is fairly well-done all things considered despite how divisive the overall film turns out to be.

All in all I can’t lie to you dear reader: this slice of cinema is not only one that is most assuredly not for everyone, but it is also the perfect movie to suggest watching in a dark and quiet room with a bottle of Tylenol for good measure. Not just for the headache that you are likely to have in the aftermath of watching this slice of cinema engage in a 2-hour onslaught of all 6 (or is it 5?) of your senses, but also so you can curl up in a ball and enjoy some much-needed decompression time even as you find yourself becoming aware that the odds aren’t exactly in your favor in terms of ever completely being able to comprehend this slice of cinema in its entirety. Even with that disclaimer in mind though dear reader, you should know that whilst this movie most assuredly is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination that also by the same token does not mean this movie is out and out a terrible viewing experience and should be avoided at any and all costs. I say that because, for as flawed as this slice of cinema is, I did find myself riveted by it all the same. Yes this movie does tend to get more than just a tad bit unpleasant in terms of some of the nightmarish paths that it chooses to take you down and yes you will find yourself most likely with your mouth agape when you see what awaits you along those aforementioned paths. However, this slice of cinema is one that is also quite thought-provoking when you give it the chance to sink its hooks (metaphorically speaking; this isn’t Hellraiser after all) into your mind and it also is most assuredly never boring especially with things continuing to escalate fairly consistently throughout. Suffice it to say then when you also bring into the mix more than capable work both behind the camera as well as in front of the camera by a well-chosen cast of players there is one thing that ultimately becomes clear. That being that, no matter if you find yourself singing this movie’s praises or desperately looking for a deep and massive hole in the New Mexico desert (preferably next to the one holding all the copies of ET on the Atari) to bury this in so it’s as far away from you as it can possibly be, this slice of cinema is one that you most assuredly will not be forgetting any time soon (if ever). Make of that what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give Mother! a solid 3.5 out of 5.