This weekend will see Jennifer Lawrence's return to the big screen since her ill-fated movie with Chris Pratt Passengers. She stars in the movie mother! directed by her now-boyfriend Darren Aronofsky. The trailers released ahead of time paint this film as some sort of pre-Halloween release horror and gore flick, with a house dripping in blood and co-star Javier Bardem as some crazy terrifying husband. But with the movie premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and reviews now out of embargo, fans want to know: how scary is mother!?
For those who assumed this was a horror flick, despite the blood and gore, it had begun to sound like it's very much not. In fact, from some of the tweets post official premiere, what it sounds like is that the movie, which is chock full of Aronofsky's trademark intensity, is something of a bait and switch. You think you're walking into a horror film. What you get is something else entirely, with one reviewer calling it a "head trip."
The character's names are the first tip-off. Jennifer Lawrence's character is only known as "mother." Bardem's character is "HIM," Ed Harris is "MAN" Michelle Pfeiffer is "WOMAN." So we're in the space not of horror, but of morality play.
The premise: Lawrence (as "mother") is the young second wife of HIM, an artistic poet in the throes of writer's block. She and HIM live in a house that's she's painstakingly working to restore from the ashes -- literal ashes. Prior to meeting and marrying HIM, his entire life (and we assume first wife) were devoured by a fire, that left him with nothing but a crystal that he carries about as his symbol to go on.
They are squired away in this literal homemaking project, where mother is not only rebuilding a home, but also building human life from scratch with her own body at the same time, in order for HIM to be able to break through his creative rut. Instead MAN comes to see him, a worshipful fan and perpetual distraction that mother finds has taken all HIM's attentions. MAN is, naturally, followed by the arrival of WOMAN, who is an immediate boundary pusher and sexual threat.
The problems arise when the movie attempts to play along with the conceit that this is a horror film, and will end the way horror films do. All the modern tropes are there -- the cell phones don't get signal, calls to 911 fail, and all the while the house seems oddly, creepily alive. Is it psychological hallucinations of a woman having a bad pregnancy? Is it the elixir she's given to drink by HIM?
This is where all the reviews will cut you off. Because this movie is none of these things. In fact, somewhere around two thirds of the way through, it casts these things off. Horror to mother! is like communism in Clue! It's red herrings all the way down.
The consensus is though that this is movie that will polarize audiences when they do go see it. Some will be very angry at what happens, partly because of the bait and switch, and partly because once the pretenses fall away, mother! goes, and I do believe this is the technical term, having seen and loved Aronofsky's The Fountain "completely batsh*t."
Like The Fountain, there will be those who absolutely revel in the twisted insanity. And for those who want horror movies that keep you on the edge of your seat in the psychological thriller vein, rather than the "teenagers making bad choices to run half dressed through forests," this will nicely fit the bill.
But if you're thinking this is Halloween-type fare, you'll be highly disappointed. This is a movie made for deep thinking hot takes, not for tootsie rolls and red hots.