Susan Granger’s review of “mother!” (Paramount Pictures)
If you needed proof of the adage “Love is blind,” look no further than Jennifer Lawrence starring in her boyfriend Darren Aronofsky’s macabre horror/melodrama that’s tinged with increasingly hysterical, pseudo-religious overtones.
Writer/director Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”) blends “Rosemary’s Baby” with “Requiem for a Dream,” making the cynical assertion that – for the artist – creative inspiration is more important than love or life itself.
Opening with the image of a huge Victorian country house burning, along with its female inhabitant (Lawrence), it relates the tortured tale of a nameless, archetypal couple (Lawrence, Javier Bardem).
He’s a famous, self-absorbed poet who craves adoration and idolatry. Serving as his self-sacrificing “inspiration,” she’s renovated and restored his idyllic old house, which burned down before they met. Like a radiant Earth Mother, she’s determined to “make a paradise” for him, even while self-medicating.
One evening, a mysterious stranger (Ed Harris) knocks at their door, explaining that he thought this was a B&B and he needs a room for the night. Rather than turn him away, the poet invites him to stay, much to the dismay of his timid, subservient, much younger wife.
It turns out their coughing, chain-smoking visitor is a doctor who is soon joined by his arrogant, predatory wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and, later, by their two bickering sons (Domhnall & Brian Gleeson), one of whom kills the other.
Then an unwelcome horde of other parasitic intruders arrive, along with relentless violence and increasing destruction.
“Who are these people?” she inquires – with increasing panic. (Aronofsky positions almost every shot either as a close-up on Lawrence’s face, over her shoulder or from her point-of-view.)
Cryptic Biblical allusions abound as subtext in this abstract, metaphysical allegory with cinematographer Matthew Libatique’s flamboyantly bizarre visuals evoking the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and other intense, apocalyptic visions.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “mother!” is a grim, grotesque 2, turning into another instance of pretentious, self-indulgent torture-porn.