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mother! – Review

11 Oct

When I was first getting heavily into film, one of my main inspirations was Darren Aronofsky. He went places with his movies that I never thought were possible. Requiem for a Dream has had an impact on me that not a lot of films have and that impact kept going when I saw his films PiThe FountainThe Wrestler, and Black Swan. I thought this guy could do no wrong. Then came Noah and I saw that maybe he isn’t perfect. Noah was a huge disappointment for me and I always thought it was a strange project for Aronofsky to take. When I saw his next film, mother!, was going to be a strange psychological horror trip down the rabbit how, I felt like it was a return to form and I was super excited. Well, I’ve seen the movie and I still can’t get a grip on what I saw. This is going to be a rough review to write because I still have no idea how I really feel. One moment I hate it, and the next I find something to truly respect. Call for help.

A woman known only as Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a secluded, dilapidated house with her husband who is only credited as Him (Javier Bardem). Him is a poet who is struggling with severe writer’s block while Mother works day in and day out trying to fix the house, which is actually Him’s old house which was destroyed in a fire. One day Man (Ed Harris) shows up at Him and Mother’s door, and Him allows Man to stay the night. The actions of Man upsets Mother and things only get worse when Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), shows up and Him also allows Woman to stay. As Mother is quietly tormented by both Man and Woman, more and more people begin inviting themselves into Mother’s house and invading her life to the point where her very existence is threatened by the endless mob of people.

This movie really is something else. mother! is one of the most polarizing movies of the year, and not just with me, but also with critics and audiences. The structure of the movie, itself, even feels like polar opposites of one another. The first hour of this film is outstanding. I was sucked into it and I was ready to defend this film against anything negative one said. The dynamic between Mother and Him was intense. The abuse that Mother was receiving was quiet and nonviolent but abuse all the same. That’s when I thought, “Oh, this movie’s about toxic relationships where the pain is never from anything physical.” I thought that was a really interesting thematic journey to be on and an idea that isn’t explored all that much. Lawrence, Bardem, Harris, and especially Pfeiffer were all at the top of their games in this half of the movie. When more people began entering the home, I also thought it was a wild idea to think of and then actually execute and execute well onscreen. So far, mother! was gutsy, well paced, original, and had a clever artistic balance. Then the movie slowed down, and that was fine. A slow down was necessary. But then, we get into the second half of the film, more specifically the third act…

It is at this point that both Darren Aronofsky and mother! goes off the rails. Without spoiling anything, more people show up to the house and the great idea Aronofsky had is spoiled by doing way too much with it. Not only that, but he shamelessly bashes the viewer over the head with his religious symbolism that completely destroyed what my theory of the movie was about. It’s a relentless mish mash of violence and allegories and pretension. I get it Darren. We all get it. Settle down. It’s also at this time where both Man and Woman are nowhere in sight, and they were only one of the most interesting part of the movie. The tracking camera work that worked so well in the first half just becomes nauseating as things start getting crazier and crazier. I wasn’t really affected by what I was looking at. I wasn’t feeling angry anymore or upset for Mother. I wasn’t even laughing at the insanity. I was just getting so confused and annoyed at how far things were going that I was getting bored. It was a very strange feeling.

So let’s weigh the good with the bad. The good is the first half of the movie that is filled with excellent performances, an idea I found very unique, and camera work that was very sure of itself. Like I said, I was sucked in for a while. The bad is pretty much everything else. The actual point of the entire movie is pretentious and completely destroyed what I thought about the film. The themes themselves are pretentious, but the obvious way Aronofsky uses them is just annoying. The idea that was great in the first half also goes way too far and is also ruined in the second half. It seems like it may be balanced, but when I  say I hated the second half I mean that I HATED it. I really can’t talk too much about what I didn’t like in the second half because it would spoil the film.

mother! is an anomaly of a movie. There are times where I admire it and there are times that it just bothers me. At this very point in time, I can still say I’m torn, but the film did anger me more than I wanted it to. I like when a movie can be angering for the emotional response that it needs. Detroit was angering, but that was the response that Bigelow wanted. mother! was angering just because of how annoying and pretentious the film got and how Aronofsky went way too far with his idea. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about this movie down the line or after repeat viewings, but this is how I feel right now.

Final Grade: C-

Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Review

2 Oct

Woody Allen is a man of many talents and phobias, which seem to really work together to aid in the creation of some unforgettable films like Annie Hall and Bananas. More recently, Allen has abandoned the city of New York for a more European approach to his film making, with an example being Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a movie that explores a depressing view of love all the while teetering the line of comedy and drama.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are two Americans spending their summer in the Spanish city of Barcelona. Vicky is level headed, responsible, and engaged, while Cristina relishes in her nonconformity and spontaneous behavior. Everything is right with their world until they meet the mysterious bohemian artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who immediately begins to swoon the two women in ways they have never been before. This triangle of romance gets more complicated when Juan Antonio’s crazed ex-wife, María Elena (Penélope Cruz) enters back into his life with some unforeseen consequences.

One of the best parts about this movie is that it’s almost like a scenic tour of the most beautiful spots in Spain. I love movies whose stories are international, because, as a viewer, you get to see many different locales. While this isn’t technically international, since it all takes place in Spain, I still got to see great spots that I’ve never seen before. It had a new feel and I didn’t feel like I was in a city that was all too familiar.

As I’ve said before, Woody Allen has done a great job at making this film feel like a comedy, but just as much a drama. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is an oxymoron, but then again so is Woody Allen. The mood that this film radiates is very light hearted, chatty, and sometimes a little silly. But if one was to dig deeper into what the movie is actually about, they might find themselves feeling a bit hopeless. There is a theme of the fallacies of love and how there really is no such thing as a perfect romance, or even a relationship where both parties will remain happy. Allen seems to be suggesting that there are better people than the one you already have.

I have really only one complaint about this movie, and it can pretty much be said for any Woody Allen movie. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is full of what I like to call  “Woodyisms.” John, what’s a Woodyism? Let me explain. A Woodyism is a very strange, almost impossible line of dialogue that just feels really weird. The use of the term “making love” is thrown around like crazy in this movie when a much simpler word might have sufficed, and there are plenty of words to choose from. But, as I said, this is part of the odd style of Woody Allen that I really can’t get used to.


Vicky Cristina Barcelona is an above average comedy/drama because of the unorthodox storytelling and the characters that really are full of life and dimensions. It’s been established for many years that Woody is a powerful force in the film industry, despite his personality and appearance. While this may not be as memorable as Annie Hall, but it still is a very strong movie that I enjoyed from beginning to end. If you’re a fan of the trademark depressing humor that this film maker has perfected, I’d say give Vicky Cristina Barcelona a watch.