MOTHER!

Directing: C
Acting: B+
Writing: D+
Cinematography: C-
Editing: C-

The pretension seeping through every surface of Mother! begins with its very title. What's with that exclamation point? To me, it punctuates the contempt I feel for this movie.

From the very first frame, the reaction is What the fuck? It ends with a bit of a What now? Everything in between makes absolutely zero things about it clear. Darren Aronofsky is a truly accomplished director, but I guess in his middle age he's more interested in offering a cinematic version of a stroke. He clearly wants his audience to understand Mother! is about something. What is it about, then? Someone explain it to me. No, I take that back. I wasted two hours of my life on this movie already.

I don't even know how I could offer any spoilers. Mother! is rotten as soon as it starts. But it's a sneaky kind of rotten, like when you chew a bite of food a few times, pleasantly oblivious until you realize there are maggots in your mouth. Too disgusting for you? Well . . . spoiler alert! There's a point in Mother! where a rabid crowd of zealots eat the main character's baby. Why that happens, I couldn't tell you. Darren Aronofsky should have a chat with Cormack McCarthy. Now there's a guy who knows how to make effective use of baby eating.

I couldn't provide a logical reason behind a single one of the choices Aronofsky makes in Mother! Well, except maybe for his decision to cast Michelle Pfeiffer, in one of the countless mystifying and/or pointless supporting roles. Pfeiffer is legitimately hilarious in this movie, which is weird because of how dark and disturbing it is. For a while, anyway. Then it's just oppressively chaotic. By then, Pfeiffer has disappeared. But when she's on screen, she plays the wife of a surprise house guest (a cigarette-hacking Ed Harris) as a deliciously cold bitch. We need to see more of Michelle Pfeiffer.

The point of view is from Jennifer Lawrence's nameless protagonist. Or is it? It would sure seem so, with Matthew Libatique's cinematography incessantly following her around this gigantic house she never leaves, right behind her head. She's consistently bewildered. It's her one emotion during this story that I could relate to.

It doesn't take long to realize time isn't quite linear. Things switch around too quickly. We learn that she helped restore this entire house, a massive house with countless rooms that evidently stands in the middle of a field with no roads to it, after it burned to the ground. "I lost everything," says her husband, played by Javier Bardem. These are two excellent actors who, in this instance, occasionally don't seem so excellent thanks to some clunky or subtly bizarre dialogue. By the end, there's an endless sequence in which reality gets so distorted that I couldn't tell if this was all an echo of a literal apocalypse (a word Jennifer Lawrence actually utters at one point), or maybe her character was nuts and having hallucinations so elaboriate that at one point the house literally turns into a war zone. I'm talking graphically shot soldiers, bullets through the face.

Weirdly -- I mean, this whole movie is weird -- Mother! startled me several times, like it was trying to be a horror movie, but each of them occurs within the first half. I even jumped when the heart that appears in the toilet squirts blood. Oh, and the toad in the basement.

I'm sure film snobs will insist this movie's "deeper meaning" is clear and anyone who can't figure out what the fuck it was about or what literally any of it means is a moron. There's a strong sense of allegory, just nothing even approaching clarity.

I found the massive marketing push over the past couple of weeks to be suspect, and I was right. Someone saw this movie and said, "Let's bombard the public with so much advertising that they give in before they knew what hit them!" I, on the other hand, put my trust in a proven director. But, even the greats typically make one or two steaming piles of shit movies.

Could this have been better if it were edited differently, maybe? Surely? Did all these great actors really read this script and say, "I have to be a part of this!" Did Darren Aronofsky roofie them all? Seriously, I don't understand. I can't remember the last movie I willingly sat through that had so few genuinely redeeming qualities. We're meant to ask, Is any of this real? By the last quarter of this movie I was just thinking, Get on with it! At least give us the detail that ties this mess together. And then the so-called twist comes in the closing scene and it's simultaneously dumb, disappointing, and more confusing the more you consider everything that preceded it. All that's left is the compulsion to warn the world not to waste their time and money on this movie.

  Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are like  whaaat  and so is everyone in the audience all day forever.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are like whaaat and so is everyone in the audience all day forever.

Overall: C-