mother! as food!: Allie's Official Review
I’m proud of myself for being good at many things, but I am fully aware that I am a terrible critic.
Horrible. The worst. Why? Well, I love almost everything. 98% of media, food, clothing, and household items I consume get a five-star review from me. It isn’t that I don’t have discernible taste (I’d like to think I have a little). It is just that I work hard to find the beauty, the lesson, the part of each thing I encounter that can help make my life and my understandings fuller, richer, more beautiful, or more full of depth.
Like Dolores (Westworld) said, “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty.”
That’s the mindset I went into mother! with last night, and I wasn’t disappointed. mother! was a beautiful, multifaceted allegory that I am still thinking about fourteen hours later. In short, I adored it.
Spoiler-Free: What Went Wrong-mother! as food! -Allie’s Analogy
I went into this film knowing it was going to be polarizing. I had also already heard the rumors that it was marketed poorly, and what I may have thought was one kind of movie was actually another. My expectations were altered, and I was ready to be a part of this little cultural phenomenon. Husband and I had heard it received a Cinemascore rating of an F, which can happen for many reasons, including if the movie is unanimously unconventional and perceived as “horrible.” But, with a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, there seems to be some dissension in the ranks. I tend to be of the same opinion of many other people: the movie was terribly mismarketed. I’m not sure if it was intentional or unintentional. I know that Darren Arronofsky wanted to keep the plot pretty under wraps, but as a result, that final cut of the trailer looked like a straight-shooting horror movie. I can tell you, with 100% certainty, what I saw last night was not a horror movie. It was unnerving, violent, and thought-provoking. It was not a horror movie.
I liken this to checking out a brand-new restaurant’s website online. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, it is called food! All the ads for food! show pictures of giant, juicy cheeseburgers. Scads of them. Golden, crispy french fries. In the background, you see a small slice of cake, but beyond that? Cheeseburgers as far as the eye can see. They won’t show you the damn menu, but it doesn’t matter. You saw those burgers. Your expectations are set. Well, you eagerly drive to food!, ready to eat that all-American creation. When you sit down, you receive an all-cake menu. These cakes are top-notch, but they are cake. The only cheeseburgers at food!, you realize, are cardboard and part of the decor. Now I love cheeseburgers and cake much more than a normal person, and as stated before, I love almost everything, but even I would be disappointed by food!.
I can temper my expectations, but I suspect some people may be so disappointed that they would say food! was the worst restaurant they had ever been to, even if the cake was delectable. They might have forgone eating altogether, and marched out without even giving a slice the old college try. Are those people wrong for not liking food!?
That, my friends, is the power of marketing. Making Allie disappointed to eat a slice of chocolate cake since 2017.
But I digress.
I feel as though mother!’s poor reception is one large dose of miscommunication. That’s not to say people would jump on Darren’s crazy train even then. But you know what? Even as I write this, I think the smoke and mirrors marketing may have been intentional. Brilliantly intentional. Finding the wrong audience, getting panned, getting mild critical acclaim, creating a “0 or 100” viewership? Pretty genius. That has all the makings of a pop-culture phenomenon.
There was this song I discovered in college that I was obsessed with by Lady Sovereign, ‘Love Me or Hate Me.” The chorus? Love me or hate me, it’s still an obsession. Love me or hate me, that is the question.
JUMP ON THE SPOILER TRAIN (see the movie, then read)
I just want to talk about this movie, all the time. All the time! As we viewed the film, I had my own set of allegories playing out in my mind. After we came home and read an interview Darren Aronofsky did with Entertainment Weekly, I had two more to add to my pile. Below will be my allegorical brain dump. Be warned, there are levels to this shit.
Level I: THE CREATIVE PROCESS
This was what I jumped to, instinctively. This was the easiest to see, because this was pretty much what was depicted. Javier Bardem plays a poet who is writer’s-blocked, and his beautiful subservient wife has been rebuilding his house brick-by-brick. We jump in on their lives just as a strange man and eventually, insane family appears and disrupts their life. I likened this to the arrival of a creative idea, and what that can do to the people around you. All Jen wanted was for these crazy people to get the hell out of her calm home, but Javier couldn’t say no to them. He needed those ideas, he needed their stories to create his next masterpiece. That spot of blood on the floor? That was the damage that one night had on the relationship between Jen and Javier. You can cover it up, but there always seems to be a little collateral damage in the creative field. Then, normalcy. The seed of the idea is planted. The creator is distracted. His life goes on…until. Until he finishes the piece. That is when the real invasion happens. Invasion of privacy. The public thinks they know you. They want every piece of you. You lose yourself to this. You don’t want them to hurt those around you, but you simultaneously want to be wanted. This can destroy everything. Burn it to the ground. Until there is rebirth, and the cycle starts all over again.
I identified strongly with Javier as the creator in this level. As Randy said, he’s not malevolent, but his choices aren’t always understood.
Level II: WOMAN AS HOME
Jen is the house and the house is Jen. As a result, the treatment Jen receives is sometimes portrayed onscreen with conscious, but loving, disregard. I mean, we all love that we have clean sheets and heat and pretty things to look at, but we frequently forget to thank them. When home is personified, like it was in mother!, it is easier to see how egregious our ungrateful nature really is. Jennifer was expected to continue to love everyone, to continue to welcome everyone in, but when she began to see things were unraveling, her warnings went unheard (see Level IV for more on this). I’m not even sure I can begin to put into words how much I felt Jennifer, and the home for that matter, really represented our culture’s view of femininity either. It really struck a deep chord
Level III: THE WHOLE DANG BIBLE
Duh. I’m not sure how this passed by me. This is what Darren’s interview with EW cleaned up for me. Javier was God. The visiting man was Adam. His wife was Eve. Then came Cain and Abel. The flood. The immaculate conception. The idolaters. The worship. The death of Jesus. The body of Christ. Guys, it’s all in there. It’s the whole Bible. There are even lines pulled straight from the Bible in the movie that I missed. Also, I feel like this level loops back with level I, because God was the OG creator. So…humanity is the ultimate creative project. Which takes us to…
Level IV: FREAKING GLOBAL WARMING
Oh my God. If we take the idea of “Woman as Home” and push it just a little further? Mother Earth, my loves. Jen was Gaia. Jen was Earth. She took a dead, burnt skeleton (Earth post-big bang) and breathed life into it. Jen gave gentle warnings throughout the unraveling. Tell them to leave. Why are they doing that? No smoking in my house (fossil fuel pollution). That sink isn’t braced, don’t sit on it (destruction of water sources). There are too many people here. Stop painting my house (humanity’s changing effect on the visual landscape). I mean, towards the end, people are ripping the house to shreds. I love how, in the crescendo, you cannot even recognize it anymore. Shrines have popped up everywhere, fences have been erected in the middle of the house, it’s changed in shape and color (muted grays and darkness). The only solution Mother Earth had? Her power? Self-destruction. Burn it to the ground. Start over. I have to sit with this for a long while.
My mind is quadruple-blown. I might have to go see it again. If you saw it, what did you think? Tell me--the good, the bad, and the ugly.