My Thoughts on mother! (Film)

Putzel (65)

I saw mother! the other week and am still struggling to process not only my thoughts on it, but also my words. This might not be the most coherent of reviews but that says as much about the film as it does my terrible skill as a film critic. Honest.

Here goes.

*Minor spoilers*

mother! (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

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My face as the credits rolled

My Thoughts

This film has definitely received a mixed bag of reviews since it opened and that is completely understandable. It personally pissed me off and reading up on its meaning in Darren Aronofsky‘s own words just made me cringe even harder. (I leave this to you to do at your leisure, it’s worth a laugh).

I’m generally a fan of his films and went into this with no expectations, other than to be wowed once more. The thing is, it’s not pure rubbish. It starts well, looks great, coaxes a decent performance out of JLaw who doesn’t always do it for me – and I was all in, even when it took such a surreal turn that you wonder if they accidentally spliced it with a completely different film.

And then the end, man. It turns so utterly violent and hateful that I almost walked out. It reminded me of a film I couldn’t finish because it contained a scene so violent that I instantly burst into tears. No reveals about the ending of mother!, I promise but let’s just say it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

From the beginning, tension mounts as visitor upon visitor begin to arrive on the doorstep of an ageing but distinguished poet (Javier Bardem) and his much younger wife’s beautiful home. The house itself has been lovingly rebuilt from the inside out by JLaw’s character Mother after a fire tore through it in her husband’s childhood.

She wafts prettily around the house in beige cardigans, painting interiors and pandering to her self-absorbed other half. When first Ed Harris and then Michelle Pfeiffer rock up, Mother becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the unexpected company (do not blame her). Her husband, however, thrives under their adoring gazes especially when it is revealed that Ed Harris is a super fan. The Poet is struggling with writer’s block and is delighted with the distraction.

Mother is outraged when he invites the new couple to stay for as long as they like at the house without consulting her. Not that she says boo to a goose because that is so not her style.

Bit by bit the house is invaded by more and more people, including the two warring sons of Ed and Michelle, and things take a very dark turn indeed. Throughout this event and beyond, Mother becomes more and more invisible to her husband and those around her. She eventually has to scream at the top of her lungs to be heard. Things appear to change when she becomes pregnant with a long-awaited baby and her husband, inspired by this miracle, finally nails his masterpiece.

All can go back to normal at last, right? Except this is an Aronofsky flick and you didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?

The Poet quickly reverts back to his self-adoring ways and he’s not the only one who digs him. The house fills up once again and Mother loses her grip. Things get even worse when the baby is born.

(During this entire film, it should be noted, Mother has been experiencing a strange physical reaction to the house, whilst necking a mysterious elixir). What the fuck does it all mean and how will this end?

At best I think this is an interesting piece of film that doesn’t leave you easily. But I don’t understand the point of the message. I took from the film that our mate Darren is passing comment on what women go through, all they give and how they are treated in return. But, like, we all know that already right? Why make a film to raise awareness of how tough it is to be a woman? Especially when you’re a man?

If you read his take it goes much deeper (and ridiculous) than that but I guess he knows better than anyone what he’s saying. I just, well I wanted more for the central character and the film. It’s pretentious, laughable in places and ultimately unsatisfying and I hate the ending.

If you see it, let me know your thoughts.

Birdman Review

Birdman post sourced via Google
Birdman post sourced via Google

I don’t get to the cinema even half as much as I would love to, or feel I should and this is something I would like to change in 2015. However, I am glad I got to see this as my first flick of the New Year. It sets the bar pretty high.

Birdman is really good. I’m not the best reviewer in the world but I do love film and well crafted, well acted pieces, which this certainly is.

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Michael Keaton (my favourite Batman, fact fans) plays washed-up actor, Riggan Thomson, once famous for playing the titular character in a trilogy of iconic Birdman films. Now he must put aside his ego and issues to make his new play, Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love a big success. Can he reclaim his past glory?

Well, I don’t know, can he? Does he? Only one way to find out.

I will say that I thought this film would be very different. In my head I was expecting something along similar lines to Paper Man (2009) (also starring Birdman’s Emma Stone) and/or Defendor (also 2009) but I realise that was just lazy presumption on my part.

Birdman is something else, in another league to those films, however much I enjoyed them. Shot in long, languid single takes and centred almost solely around one location, the theatre in which the play is being rehearsed (and then subsequently opens), it has a very production within another production feel.

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I now spend some time Googling what I mean by that, and I’ve got no examples beyond Black Swan (2010), which is funny as two people close to me have separately compared Birdman and, specifically, Thomson’s quest for redemption (and one more blast at recognition) with another Aronofsky flick, The Wrestler (2008). Which of course shares themes with Black Swan (which I adore).

There are big questions that arise from the climax of Birdman, as they did withbirdman-costume-birdman-new-trailer-dives-deep-into-a-washed-up-superhero-new-york-film-festival-2014-birdman-movie-review both those Aronofsky flicks that are interesting but are not something we can discuss here now.

I will say that both Glynn and I had different views on how it ended. Again, I can’t say what my view is, nor Glynn’s because: spoilers. But I liked the fact that it was left open to interpretation.

Stand outs for me were Keaton, who plays the erratic Thomson perfectly, mixing deep emotion with a quiet desperation. You just want him to do well I think and feel sorry when things look fraught or unlikely to pan out the way he wants. There are scenes that call on him to be very raw and he holds up wonderfully, staying likeable almost always. I like Riggan, even in his exchanges with his family when he’s being frustrating.

Birdman-EmmaStone-BigEyesI very much enjoyed Emma Stone, as Riggan’s daughter, Sam, who has just recently come out of rehab. Now working as her father’s assistant, she still carries the scars of early life without him around and displays a quiet anger for much of the film.

Forming a bond with Mike (Edward Norton), the intense new method actor called in to take over one of the main parts in the play, may in part be an act of rebellion but in fact the scenes between them are quite sweet and give Mike more depth, turning him into less of a caricature of a theatre actor, into a living man. That’s maybe down to the romantic in me because that’s not really saying much, he’s pretty dickish.

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Rumour has is that the character of Mike is a parody of Edward Norton himself, based on perception of him as an actor. I assume if this is true that he knows and plays up the character deliberately. If it is, then I like him a bit more now and he does play it well, Norton at his subtly maniacal best.

Other highlights (SPOILER ALERTS) are the scene in which Riggan accidentally gets locked out of the auditorium during an interval and inadvertently becomes the King of the Internet (a medium he has nothing but disdain for), and every scene featuring Lindsay Duncan as theatre critic Tabitha, who is resolutely out to destroy Riggan and his play.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I realise that I’ve hardly mentioned the surreal aspect of Birdman and especially the titular ‘character’ but believe me this has been deliberate. These elements are for you to discover and then ruminate upon yourself.

Let me know what you think if you see it!