Tag Archives: symbolism

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-

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Lady in the Water – Review

5 Dec

I’m one of those people who defends M. Night Shyamalan, and abstains from mocking him and laughing at his movies. Everything from The Sixth Sense to The Village gets a thumbs up from me. The Happening had potential, but unfortunately flopped, and I chose to stay away from The Last Airbender. What about that little movie that never seems to get brought up, Lady in the Water? Well it’s certainly not perfect or, even great, but watch it with an open mind and try to look beneath the surface and you very well may like the depth that this movie goes and the allegories that it presents.

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Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is a nervous handyman at an apartment complex which houses a fair share of strange, yet interesting people. One night, Cleveland finds a mysterious woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) swimming in the apartment’s pool. He learns that she is actually a water nymph called a “narf” from the Blue World with a mission to inspire a writer living in the complex (Shyamalan, himself). This may sound easy, but there is a dangerous wolf-like creature, a “scrunt” lurking in the grass around the pool waiting for an opportunity to lash out at the nymph and prevent her from completing her mission. Cleveland rounds up the tenants of the building to battle the scrunt and help Story get home safe.

Anyone whose really analyzed a Shyamalan movie knows that he is avery religious person. Hell, you don’t even have to try very hard to get the message. Lady in the Water was more of a challenge to find the religious allegories and symbols, and I’m not going to spoil what they are, but this is a fun movie to study more than watch. To anyone who just wants to kill a few hours with this movie may be a little disappointed. Looking at it like a puzzle is more fun.

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The main detraction of this movie is the convulsion of the plot combined with some poor pacing. First off, narf and scrunt are pretty laughable titles, but that’s nit picking. Clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes, I could easily scrub twenty off. Scenes go on for too long or don’t even need to exist. It felt like some scenes would have been better off as a deleted scene on the special features menu. The plot is also a little hard to believe. The people in this complex are more than ready to risk their lives for a supposed water nymph from another world. It would have been more interesting to see Giamatti’s character try to really convince the tenants what was going on. Also, anyone used to cool Shyamalan scares and love his plot twists may be a little disappointed as this movie is lacking both. There’s definitely an air of horror, but not much pay off.

Paul Giamatti is excellent and you can tell that he’s really trying to sell his lines, which is pretty successful most of the time. Bryce Dallas Howard also does a fine job, even though its a pretty one note performance. That stays within the realm of her character, so this isn’t a detraction. The other people in the apartments are less than spectacular, save for a surprising little performance by Jared Harris. He is great but doesn’t really have much to do, which is really disappointing.

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Again, watch this movie with an open mind and really think. Finding all the clues, meanings, and worldly critiques are more interesting than the actual story. I can’t say I totally agree with Shyamalan’s philosophies, but they are intelligent and respectable in their own right and he does a great job at hiding them within the screenplay. Not everything is as obvious as it seems, which is a challenge that the characters in the film even have to overcome.

While Lady in the Water may not be a great movie, I’d still put it in the “good” category. It’s certainly not a bad movie at all, and I feel a lot of the hate towards this movie stem from the bandwagon of mockery that M. Night Shyamalan has to put up with. He’s not a bad film maker, in fact, he’s a very intelligent one and it shows in this film. I recommend it for the intellectual stimulation that is offered and Giamatti’s performance, but not so much for the story and the supporting cast.