If you were to survey a group of avid moviegoers about motivations, you’d get a host of different answers. The most common one would be the simplest, entertainment. That’s totally fair. Most moviegoers go to theaters with family or friends. It’s also where you take your date if you want to score points for picking that new romantic comedy. Aside from that, moviegoers usually want to see the summer action blockbuster or a horror movie. Might even go see one of the twenty-seven superhero movies released that current year.
Ask yourself this though: When was the last time you went to the movies to be challenged?
Weird question, right?
With the TV gold rush happening currently, a lot of big movie talents are leading the charge. This is both a bad and good thing. Bad because there are very few original ideas from big studios. We are currently in the era where every obscure 80s TV show is getting a reboot. Good because it makes way for indie projects and arthouse movies. Lesser known (and possibly more talented) writers and directors have the lane wide open to put their projects out. While Darren Aronofsky isn’t new to the scene, a few years ago a movie like mother! wouldn’t have been given the push it has. Regardless of the terrible Rotten Tomatoes score, I’m glad it’s here.
While I do enjoy going to the movie just for mindless entertainment, it’s important to remember moviemaking is an art form first and foremost. As with all art forms, balance is needed. Boundaries need to be pushed as much as things need to stay centered as remain the same. This is the role of a provocateur such as Aronofsky.
Now, it’s important to note one of my favorite quotes ever describing art: There’s good art and there’s bad art. There is good trash and there’s bad trash.
No movie gets extra points from me simply for being an artsy movie, especially if it still misses all the benchmarks that make a good movie what it is. Look no further than the controversial Cannes Film Festival submission Only God Forgives if you want an example of art gone awry. Nothing is inherently good simply because it dares to be different.
mother! is every bit as daring as movies such as Only God Forgives but still manages to achieve the main reason you came to the movies in the first place. Entertainment! Is that not why you’re here!? Although this movie was promoted as a horror, it’s anything but that. Yet, there are a few truly horrifying moments that will leave an imprint on your mind. There is one scene in particular that actually caused a grown man to walk out. If you are familiar with Aronofsky’s work, this scene is probably harder to stomach than the “ass to ass” scene and any combination of the most horrifying scenes in Black Swan. Although this scene might be most people’s limit, because it was damn near mine, it wasn’t done just for the sake of being done. It helped drive the point of the entire movie.
Speaking for myself, going to the theater is a very intimate experience for me. Being an extreme introvert, I typically like to go at times where the theater is mostly empty. Without screeching chairs or the munching on popcorn to distract me, I was able to sit back and absorb the subtle nuances of this film. This made the movie much more enjoyable. Watching this movie on the big screen instead of the comfort of my own couch definitely honors its vision. Being in a dark theater forced me to focus on the sensory overload this movie provided.
This unusual experience is what I long for. Having seen a movie like The Witch at home last year, I could only imagine what it would have been like to see that on the larger screen. Sure, our summer movies are fun but I want to see a director use the big screen as his canvas every now and then.
mother! is a failure by every possible metric of the box office but it has people talking. This movie leaves no room for any grey area. Either you love it or hate it. No matter which side people fall on, they have been analyzing themes of this film and decipher its meaning. This doesn’t spell failure to me. Given the arguments about the monotony of superhero movies along with other reboots, I want movies that stick with me days, even weeks after I exit the theater. Understandably, this movie isn’t going to be everyone’s thing. But if you want to see a daring, thought-provoking film, give mother! a shot.
[PS: Stylizing the title as mother! made this post a tedious task but to honor the film and its impact it’s totally necessary]