Saturday, April 20, 2024

Review: Jennifer Lawrence in “Mother!” a Modern “Rosemary’s Baby” as a Contemplation on Fame


All the people involved in the new horror film “Mother!” —  opening Friday–are heavy hitters. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem have Oscars. Darren Aronofsky has indie cred after directing the beloved “Black Swan” and “Requiem for a Dream.”

So Paramount gave them a huge all-star premiere last night at Radio City Music Hall followed by a no-media after party some warehouse disco downtown. The VIP line to get into Radio City was something unprecedented, too– it snaked down Sixth Avenue and up West 50th St. where it was possible to see any number of famous faces. Said one big name Broadway producer, “You have to have a sense of humor.”

Inside Radio City we ran into lots of well known people from Emma Stone and Greta Gerwig to Edward Norton and Jake Paltrow.

And what is “Mother!” all about? It feels like an update of “Rosemary’s Baby,” with of course lots of cutting edge special effects. JLaw and Bardem are a happy couple living in a beautifully restored farmhouse. He’s a famous writer, she’s in charge of decorating. Then Ed Harris knocks on the door. He says he’s a professor. He also has a bad cough and may be dying.

Shortly after, his wife–Michelle Pfeiffer– shows up looking for him. Then their two sons (actor Domhnall Gleeson and his real life brother Brian), warring over Dad’s will. Bardem lets them all in and encourages their sociopathic behavior while Lawrence suffers and sees things in the walls. (Is it asbestos? Ghostbusters goop? Hard to say.)

“Mother!” is a little episodic, so all of these people eventually vanish when their work is done. That launches the second act, so to speak, which is very “Rosemary’s Baby” although there is no cute Ruth Gordon to befriend JLaw. Jen (the characters don’t have names) is pregnant. Javier is writing the Greatest Poem Ever. But their happiness is short-lived: act three is a gory fever dream in which the couple’s baby is tossed around like a football.

Lawrence and Bardem, of course, are eminently watchable. Aronofsky is almost too clever for his own good but he is never boring. “Mother!” is rich with imagery and subtext and references to literally everything. One bit of casting — a surprise appearance by Kristen Wiig– is disruptive in this meditation. But Aronofsky scores many points, especially about what people sacrifice for fame and adulation.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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