So I guess we’re gonna have to talk about this one again, huh? It certainly seems that everyone else is getting in on the action with various think pieces about what the movie actually means and how audiences are reacting to it, which… I guess I can’t criticize because I’m currently doing the exact same thing, but I’m still feeling a bit irksome about how much publicity this movie is getting when what I saw really didn’t merit all the hoopla. Making matters worse is the fact that CinemaScore (a poll of general audience moviegoers) have given the film a rating of F; bringing back the tired argument about how art films are just too GOOD for mainstream audiences to understand. I mean… sure, I’ve certainly held firmly on one side of that debate in the past (I bring up Michael Bay as often as possible), but after seeing the film itself, I just don’t think this is the one for some of the more snobby among us to lord over the undiscerning masses, because… well if you read my review, you’d know that I am rather close to absolutely hating this film; stopping just short of that due to the technical acumen, the finely tuned tension curve that’s constantly raising the stakes, and Aronfosky’s undoubtedly strong command of cinematic storytelling. Make no mistake; this isn’t an amateur hour shit show like God’s Not Dead 2 or Incarnate. This is a phenomenal filmmaker who tried to do something great but I feel has failed in spectacular fashion, and while I do understand the reasoning behind for softening ones opinions about a movie that genuinely tries THAT hard (the story of Icarus is usually seen to be a tragic one), I just… couldn’t. Too much about this movie is misguided for me to want to give it much of a pass, at least as far as my own feelings on it as I think it’s STILL probably a movie worth seeing at some point even if you ultimately hate it the same way I did. So I guess that begs the question, what is it that everyone seems to be getting out of this movie, and why do I feel it was done so poorly?
Mother! and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
I’ve never really been a fan of David Fincher, yet I’ve very much appreciated Aronofsky despite them sharing quite a few similarities; mostly in regards to just how dark and cynical they can be when it comes to their subject matter. I guess Aronofsky still manages to CARE about his characters even when they’re terrible people or getting mercilessly destroyed which is something that feels absent from a lot of Fincher’s work like Fight Club or Gone Girl; both are about terrible people but never seem to get past simply PRESENTING us with their unpleasantness. Aronofsky’s different, especially with movies like The Wrestler and Black Swan which are straight up tragedies about broken people trying desperately to get their lives together and failing miserably in the process. Now we have Mother! which, aside from the gratuitous punctuation, seems to be in the same vein though leaning much more on horror tropes and absurd excess than a more focused psychological horror narrative and seems to be in the same vein as Noah (another one of his movies that I like) at least as far as just how far he’s willing to take the strangeness of it all. Is this another classic to add to his already impressive catalogue, or has he made his biggest misstep since The Fountain? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a HUGE spoiler, but AFTER that we follow around a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in a REALLY nice house that is in desperate need of repair, but at least it gives Jennifer Lawrence something to do while FAMED POET JAVIER BARDEM putters around not writing anything. Still, she seems perfectly content with her day to day life of fixing the place up and making it look more hospitable… but everything changes once some guy and his wife (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up at their doorstep and Bardem is MORE than happy to offer their house, their food, and their personal space to the couple with no consultation from Jennifer Lawrence. Things escalate from there, but in ways I’d rather not spoil as the movie goes place you really couldn’t imagine from the trailers which sell this as a much different film. Does Jennifer Lawrence find a way to assert herself and regain control of what is hers? What is Javier Bardem’s deal with letting these people come in in the first place, and what ulterior motives do they have? No seriously, Aronfosky. What the fuck did you do here?
Fences and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Denzel Washington
So what we have is one of the most respected black actors making a film based off of a multiple award winning stage play in a year where the Academy is looking for ANY film to try and make up for OSCAR SO WHITE. Well, since Birth of a Nation turned out to be underwhelming and Moonlight being under the radar for most, chances are that Denzel’s big film of the year is gonna be a HUGE winner come the end of February. Still, being ripe Oscar bait doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a GOOD movie (*cough* The King’s Speech *cough*), and there are plenty of films that won awards that no one cared about even a year later (*cough* Chariots of Fire *cough*). Is this one of those that exists solely to maximize Oscar wins, or is there more beneath the surface what with the immense talent in front of and behind the camera? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about the Maxson family; primarily the patriarch breadwinner Troy (Denzel Washington), his loving yet firms wife Rose (Viola Davis), and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo). The family lives a comfortable if somewhat tiring life in the Pittsburg suburbs where Troy spends five days a week hauling garbage and the other two days complaining that he never got his shot to play baseball professionally. Naturally, he’s the kind of guy who makes sure that EVERYONE knows what he could have been if he wasn’t such a gosh darn loving and responsible father, and this attitude starts to get him into more and more trouble as the play goes along; including when his son is given a shot to go to college on a football scholarship that he isn’t too keen on letting him accept. Will this man’s bitterness and resentment towards the world lead to his family (including his son from another family Lyons played by Russell Horsnby and his brother Gabriel who suffered brain damage during the war played by Mykelti Willamson) to finally turn their back on him no matter how many meals his paycheck gives them? What else is he getting up to that neither he nor his best friend Jim Bono (Stehen McKinley Henderson) aren’t too keen on talking about? Just how much screen time is too much for Denzel!?
Trick question. You can NEVER have too much screen time with him!