Some are calling Darren Aronofsky's Mother! a "masterpiece" and "one of Aronofsky's best." On the flip side: Those calling it the worst big-screen debut in a while. The psychological thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem is generating buzz (though apparently not cash), with Peter Bradshaw writing for the Guardian that it has officially "joined the 'bad movie' club," receiving an "F" grade from CinemaScore. Critics, however, seem to like Mother! a whole lot more (68% on Rotten Tomatoes) than the general public (42%). "How could this extreme disconnect have happened?" Bradshaw asks. One of his theories, among others: "Audiences are shocked and upset in ways they didn't sign up for. Some unspoken, unacknowledged consumer contract has been violated." More:
- In the New York Times, Melena Ryzik calls Mother! "the year's most divisive film," noting that Aronofsky wrote the script in five days. "I just pounded through it, kind of like a fever dream," he says. Ryzik talks more in depth with the director, as well as Lawrence and Bardem, for their take on a movie that starts off like a typical thriller and ends in "flaming nightmare surrealism." But even "if it alienates mass audiences, it could also be the slow-burn conversation piece of the year," Ryzik writes.
- Rex Reed moves beyond categorizing Mother! as worst of the year—writing for the Observer, he says it's perhaps the "worst movie of the … century." Reed calls Aronofsky a "wack job" and slams his previous films (including Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream), but he says even those didn't prep him for this "delusional freak show," an "exercise in torture and hysteria so over the top that I didn't know whether to scream or laugh out loud." The only thing Reed concedes: The film is "indeed original" and features moments of "technical brilliance." He also advises viewers to ignore all reviews and just make up their own meaning.
- Not that that's necessary, as Steve Weintraub actually asked Aronofsky what the movie is about for Collider. The director reveals it's an allegorical retelling of the Bible, as well as a narrative on Mother Nature, from her perspective. "A lot of people aren't picking up on all of it, there's lots of little things and Easter Eggs and how things connect, and I think that's the fun of unpacking the movie."
- Meanwhile, over at AV Club, Clayton Purdom watched it with a parent's eye, noting the film is "even more harrowing" when viewed with your pregnant wife—which is exactly how he viewed it. While he says the film is "dense, beautifully shot, and audacious," it's also a film he thinks was "mathematically designed to jam a foot into the deepest anxieties of new parents."
- IndieWire, which says Mother! is a "financial disappointment" but a "creative victory" for Paramount, features a statement from the studio, first noted in the Hollywood Reporter. "Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell," the statement notes. "This is our version. We don't want all movies to be safe. And it's OK if some people don't like it."
- Lawrence herself acknowledges that polarization, telling Entertainment Weekly there's "no middle ground" on how people feel about the film. "That's what so exciting—everybody is going to feel something," she says. "It's going to create a conversation. It's going to create a controversy. Nobody is going to leave not getting something from it."
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