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mother!

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky is the latest director critics have been fawning over. Film critics love him, audiences are usually perplexed by him. His debut film Pi (2008) was disappointing (despite the praise every critic seemed to heap on it). Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream were okay. I never saw Noah or The Fountain, but loved The Wrestler.

All of my cinephile friends are excited to see mother! Boy oh boy, are they in for a disappointment. At the screening, the studio informed us we couldn’t bring guests. Turns out that was the best thing they could’ve done for my wife. She didn’t have to waste two hours with this self-indulgent, pretentious, torture porn crap. It was a Rosemary’s Baby-bait-and-switch. The trailers made us think it would be like that Roman Polanski classic, but it was more like Polanski’s Repulsion.

Coming off a weekend where Stephen King’s “It” broke box office records for horror films, many will be bummed to find this isn’t a horror flick, despite what it looks like in the commercials.

Aronofsky said this was a biblical allegory, but not being a religious person, I only picked up on the Cain and Abel bit (two brothers played by Domhnall and Brian Gleeson). I suppose Javier Bardem is supposed to be the creator, and Jennifer Lawrence is Gaia. The beautiful Victorian house in the middle of the lush field is Eden. I don’t know, and I don’t care.

It would be nice to say that you at least get to enjoy some good performances from Lawrence and Bardem. Yet Lawrence really isn’t given much to do but yell at people to get out of her house. It’s funny that for an actress that goes on and on about women making less money in movies, she has no problem doing a movie where she’s just submissive to everything the guy wants to do, and is as exploitative as a slasher flick. Oh, she’s also dating the director, who is 20 years older. Talk about art imitating life.

Bardem and Ed Harris have some scenes that are somewhat interesting. They bring a sense of danger to the proceedings, although maybe that’s because of their body of work. Bardem was a Bond villain and Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. Harris played an evil stranger that showed up to torment Viggo Mortensen in A History of Violence.

When Michelle Pfeiffer shows up a day after Harris (she plays his wife), and immediately makes herself at home and doesn’t respect boundaries…you have that same feeling you have with slasher flicks. You’re asking yourself…Why is she going down into that basement? Why is she not leaving the house, because these people are obviously crazy.

Along with the biblical allegories, there are also goofy takes on what it’s like to deal with fans when you’re famous. Those come up in the third act (and it’s rather distracting seeing Kristen Wiig as his agent in some of those scenes). And seriously, hasn’t Aronofsky covered religion and fame in previous films? As well as hallucinations, which are also happening in this.

One of my pet peeves in movies is a writer that has to deal with writer’s block. I think that only happens on screen. I’m guessing poets will have a bigger problem with the fact that this guy can make a living writing poetry.

The dialogue is clunky and repetitive. The themes are all open to interpretation, but instead of the fun you have after a good movie debating things about it…after the screening, all the critics were talking about how much we hated it. One guy yelled, “I was about ready to leave the damn movie halfway in!” Another told me how disgusted she was after a certain scene (and I agree, it gets rather vile and revolting).

The handheld cameras at times did a good job creating tension; more often it was just annoying. So were the various close-ups — whether that was on Lawrence’s face, or the paint she was stirring up.

The best thing about this movie is it made me think of two terrific songs — Pink Floyd’s “Mother” and Tracy Bonham’s “Mother Mother.”

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5, and that’s only because the first third was interesting and kept you guessing. Otherwise, it would get a 0. It’s a movie that will probably make it on my list of the worst this year.