Writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! works very hard at keeping the audience as off-balance as Jennifer Lawrence’s consistently bewildered and put-upon character.
Lawrence is the wife of Javier Bardem’s frustrated writer (no words have been coming…for a while) and spends her time alternately supporting her husband, suppressing her desire for a child, and renovating the sizable and secluded fixer-upper they call home. Who else should appear in this little paradise but a mysterious, possibly dying orthopedist with a wracking cough (Ed Harris), his very curious wife (Michelle Pfeiffer—who is warned not to go into the artist’s creative nerve center)—and later their two squabbling adult sons (Domnhall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson) whose antagonism toward each other can only end in violence…
There are two distinct sections to this film. By far the most entertaining is this first one, as Lawrence struggles to cope with not only the unwanted visitors (who by and large take over their home), but Bardem’s indifference to her own pain. It is only when something happens to his “muse” that anything resembling outrage occurs to Bardem, but even this is overcome by subsequent events. While I’m choosing not to release the big “reveal,” I will suggest that your enjoyment of the film depends on how much you relish being swept into the realms of horror, fantasy, cataclysmic violence, and some pretty bald (not necessarily bold) allegory. This writer can only say he was more comfortable enjoying the film when it was dealing with the uncomfortable interactions among Pfeiffer, Harris, Lawrence and Bardem; Aronofsky has a field day employing Lawrence in a state of perpetual insecure motion; exploring the house, encountering unsettling images, uneasily confronting Pfeiffer (their scenes are the highlights), grappling with her increasingly remote husband. While it’s clear to see what Aronofsky has intended with Mother! (it becomes very clear in the second half—if not before), that still leaves one with an exhausting and not particularly satisfying cinematic experience.
Review – IT
It, directed by Andy Muschetti, is the latest Stephen King adaptation to hit the screens, and is, for the most part, an engrossing and occasionally frightening tale of some youthful misfits confronting evil in a small town in Maine. People have been disappearing in the small town of Derry, and it’s apparent early on that the main evildoer is this killer clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), who is especially effective with those who are afraid of him (Horror and the Underworld have their own rules). While the boys (and one girl) have their own individual brushes with death, they realize they can only defeat “It” by joining forces—which becomes a little difficult due to parental interference, perceived betrayals, and sheer fright.
The screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Duberman is a skillful condensation of the first section of the book (there will be more to come…) and It benefits from a gleeful and chilling Skarsgard, as well as the sympathetic performances from its young leads, especially Jaeden Lieberher as Bill, the de-facto “leader,’ Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, the newest “loser,’ and Sophia Lillis as Bev, who has to deal with an unearned reputation as well as the unwanted advances of her creepy father. The scares are pretty effective (though they do get a tad repetitive), the suspense well-paced, and the relationships well-developed (even though they do remind one of the earlier Stand By Me). If you have the time, It is worth the trip to the multiplex—and will leave you anticipating the sequel.