Oh, the horrors! ‘mother’ an exhausting carnival of chaos

What is “mother!”? The coy publicity for this non-capitalized movie hasn’t revealed much.

Well, it’s a horror movie for sure, although not much like the usual kind where characters foolishly go down into dark basements. Even though characters do go foolishly down into dark basements here.

It’s also an art movie, given all the pretentious aspirations that writer-director Darren Aronofsky can summon. And if you’ve seen “Black Swan” or “The Fountain,” you know Aronofsky can get pretentious.

It might also be one of the more misanthropic movies ever made. Other people are not just a nuisance but a nightmare in “mother!”, to the point that you can’t blame the heroine for wanting to lock the doors and keep everybody out.

She (there are no character names) is played by Jennifer Lawrence, a relatively new bride to an older, well-known poet (Javier Bardem). She’s restored his isolated country house, which was all but destroyed in a fire.

One day their lives are interrupted by two strangers (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, the latter in especially lively form), a rude couple who may have been drawn to the house by the poet’s celebrity. The poet, suffering from writer’s block, is pleased to have the adulation, and possibly material for future work.

This intrusion is annoying enough, and the early section of the film is wonderfully creepy in its unsettling depiction of people who just won’t take a hint. Aronofsky leaves his camera right in Jennifer Lawrence’s face, leaving no doubt that we’re meant to see this bad dream through her perspective (her performance is a model of quick, intense reactions).

Then things escalate. Oh boy, do they escalate. At one point the house becomes a kind of theater for all the chaos of modern life: terrorism, protests, religious fanaticism, militarization run amok.

Did we mention this movie is pretentious?

I didn’t buy into all of Aronofsky’s carnival of madness (the constant handheld camera, and the murky light of Matthew Libatique’s photography, takes its toll at 121 minutes). “Mother!” does have the virtue of being funny, although its black humor is under the skin. This is more than can be said for the rest of Aronofsky’s extremely serious body of work.

As bizarre as “mother!” is, the theme is actually spelled out pretty explicitly: This is a depiction of how one person’s need for more than reciprocal love can doom a relationship.

That Aronofsky drags us through hell to get the point is either inspired or sadistic. I think maybe it’s a little of both — and the movie itself is one of a kind.

“mother!” 2 1/2 stars

The young wife (Jennifer Lawrence) of a well-known poet (Javier Bardem) finds their isolated life invaded by bizarre fans of her husband’s work. Darren Aronofsky directs this nightmare as an escalating carnival of chaos, and the movie manages to be funny, pretentious and rather exhausting.

Rating: R, for violence, language

Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinnebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

Talk to us

More in Life

FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2013 file photo, Elvin Bishop performs at the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee, Wis. Bishop, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson, John Mayall and the Memphis Jug Band were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision for Invision/AP, File)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Elvin Bishop will join fellow bluesman Charlie Musselwhite on stage in Edmonds on May 25.

789_speller: Olive Ostrovsky (played Abby Price) concentrates on her spelling word while her competitors, played by (from left) Amanda Petrowski, Alexa Soriano, Haylie Conchelos, and (back row) Jackson Zimmerman try to distract her in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” running May 26-June 11 at Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville.(Kenny Randall)
‘Spelling Bee’ wraps up Marysville theater’s 2022-23 season

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will run May 26-June 11 at Red Curtain Arts Center.

Just outside Kraków, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is filled with salt sculptures – and tourists.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Kraków weaves a vibrant cultural tapestry

It’s Poland’s cultural and intellectual center, and easily the nation’s best destination.

Do I express my feelings or keep them to myself?

It might be difficult, but communicating uneasy feelings is an important part of taking care of yourself.

American Queen Voyages takes five months to process refund

May Youngclaus has been waiting months for a refund from American Queen Voyages. Is her money lost at sea?

The all-new 2023 Nissan Ariya has seating for five passengers, and nearly 23 cubic feet of rear cargo room. (Nissan)
2023 Ariya compact is Nissan’s first all-electric SUV

The lineup gives buyers a lot of leeway, with front- or all-wheel drive, and two battery options.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Thousands walk the streets of downtown Everett with cameras in hand for return of Cruzin’ to Colby Monday afternoon in Everett, Washington on May 28, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Everett’s Cruzin’ to Colby car show is ‘place to play on Memorial Day’

And it’s free! Last year’s event drew 50,000 people downtown to see hundreds of gleaming hot rods and cool cars.

“The Tree Frame Cabin” at the site of the Index Cabins, also known as The Pietsch Pit, in Index, Washington on Friday, March 31, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
The Index Cabins showcase Sky Valley beauty — and millions of years of history

Nick and Nassim Pietsch’s property offers six ways to see your surroundings in a new light.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

The delicate pink flowers of Soapwort are just one part of the tapestry of blooming ground covers in Steve Smith’s garden right now. (Getty Images)
Lament slow growth no longer: Our gardens they are a-changin’

What a difference a few weeks can make! A late-spring surge never fails to keep things interesting.

Eagles are a powerful symbol in American designs from the Great Seal to everyday decorative arts. A carved eagle holds up this table’s faux marble top.
Colonial Revival pieces celebrate American history with classic symbols

Stars and stripes, Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty and, of course, eagles often appear in works from this period.