One of my favorite takedowns of all time is a single sentence in the San Diego Union-Tribune, in which David Elliott refers to Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream as “less filmed than assembled by an MTV task force committed to the final obliteration of subtlety.” Seventeen years later, subtlety continues to elude Aronofsky, and Mother!’s environmentalist/biblical allegory may be his most heavy-handed work yet.
That’s fine, as far as it goes; subtext doesn’t always need to be subterranean. But I find breathless attempts to tackle themes as broad as Humanity to be inescapably boring and pretentious, and a slightly more down-to-earth interpretation of Mother! as an examination of creativity-as-divinity is even less flattering.
Still, even if I roll my eyes at Mother!’s overwrought foundation, I admire the vigor with which it was made. The camera’s unwavering attachment to Jennifer Lawrence renders her escalating frustration very effectively, and the cacophonous third act is quite a ride.
Side note (mild spoilers): However underwhelming I find the symbolism to be, I think the depiction of extreme violence against Jennifer Lawrence’s character is symbolically appropriate, not some kind of depraved misogynistic catharsis for the filmmaker or viewer. However, the nip slip in that scene will inevitably land it a decontextualized, prominent placement on every “Nude Celebrities!” site in the universe, and that is very, very unfortunate.