Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Mother!”
The Movie: “Mother!”
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 69 percent
Froemming: The past few entries in Halloween Month have not really been all that creepy or frightening. In fact, they have been pretty (REDACTED) cartoonish, what with dumb masks and death by pie. So, to switch it up, I decided I could do no wrong in the “Holy (REDACTED) What The Hell Did I Just Watch” department with Darren Aronofsky, the only filmmaker who made a movie so twisted and scary it kept me awake at night (“Requiem for a Dream”).
I went with “Mother!” a movie I read was so off-the-walls and crazy that I put it on my list of things to watch. And Halloween Month was the perfect time.
Now Brown, while I keep inviting guests into your house and pushing your anxiety levels to the max, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: This movie is a two-hour exercise in what I hate about house parties. Namely, when my college roommates threw house parties and me, coming back from work, just wanted to unwind in a chill environment and call it a night.
As far as Darren Aronofsky, I haven’t seen the really twisted stuff like “Requiem for a Dream” or “Black Swan,” as acclaimed as those movies are. I did see “The Wrestler,” which was extremely good if not incredibly depressing.
So, I figured we were in for some (REDACTED) with “Mother!” I didn’t know how I’d think of it because this movie got a lot of negative reviews from moviegoers.
After watching this, I can safely say this is the most carefully crafted trainwreck of a movie I’ve seen. Whether that warrants viewings for others, we’ll figure that out.
I’m gonna try and brace the sink against the wall. While I do that, start us off, Froemming.
Froemming: Let me just start this off by saying once I was an hour into this, my thinking was “how the (REDACTED) are we going to do this?” Because we have no names, just Him (Bardem), Mother (Lawrence) and others who come into play. This movie is basically a two-hour panic-inducing nightmare.
We begin with Him playing with a crystal, probably stolen from Indiana Jones or something, that takes a wrecked-out house and puts it back together again. Then Mother wakes up and like the rest of us, seems to be wondering what the hell is going on.
Well, she is in this guy’s house, a house they are working on that is probably next door to the Armitage Estate from “Get Out,” and we see Him is a writer of some sort struggling with writer’s block.
White people, ammirite?
Brown: You think “Get Out,” I thought this movie took place in the past because the house looked like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” house before it became infested with chicken bones, bloody corpses and incest butchers.
Throughout the movie, there’s these illusions that the house is alive? There’s a beating heart-like thing we see several times. Later, there’s blood and what I can only describe as a vagina in the hardwood floor.
Every time I saw that heart, I became Lisa Simpson hiding Alice’s “Tell Tale Heart” diorama.
Froemming: I also thought of “The Simpsons” with the killer house.
While living the tranquil existence that I imagine is how life is in Maine for some reason, the couple get a knock on their door.
This is when I knew things would go wrong. Anytime Ed Harris is in anything, you know things are going to go to hell in a handbasket.
Harris plays the man, not The Man that is keeping all of us down, but just man, a random stranger who imposes on people in the middle of the night.
Let me just say here that I am a person who hates having guests around for too long, so the whole premise of strangers imposing rudely on Lawrence in this movie filled me with deep anxiety.
Brown: Not to mention when the man gets invited to stay the night, much to the chagrin of mother, he just starts smoking in the house. We tolerate a lot here on the JOE-DOWN, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna tolerate the bad manners of Ed Harris! Take your cigarettes outside. This isn’t a 2000s Minnesota bar.
Froemming: This movie is truly horrifying to the Midwest sensibilities of The JOE-DOWN. Rudeness is something that creates what we like to call “a scene.” We hate “scenes.”
Brown: Also, I didn’t see the label on the bottle or anything, but what the (REDACTED) is J-Law pouring into her glass as “medicine” anytime the stress becomes too much? Look, mother, I know everyone’s driving you nuts and the beating of the house’s hideous heart doesn’t help. But, don’t ever drink anything that, in 2017/18, looks like it was sold by a snake oil salesman circa 1875. It didn’t cure the rickets then and it won’t help you with your near-stroke now.
Froemming: I’m guessing it is good old liquor to calm the nerves!
So the man is invited to stay the night by Him, reminding me of all the times my exes would just randomly let their drunk friends spend the night in our apartment. This was another moment that filled me with utter dread. Blood, guts, jump-scares? Do nothing for me. Make me socially uncomfortable? Now we got a true horror movie!
Brown: Remind me when I come to Bemidji next month that I should just get a hotel room. I can tell when I’m not wanted.
Froemming: Done and done!
Brown: You know what makes having a random guest stay over worse? When he starts inviting family over! Namely, his wife that he starts open-mouth kissing when she arrives. That’s uncomfortable to watch in a public setting, but I will not be harassed in my domicile.
Turns out, the man is a big fan of Him’s writings and is (allegedly) on the verge of death so he wanted to come visit. OK, it’s bordering on “Misery” levels, but it makes sense. But how do you find this house in literally the middle of nowhere? Because it’s the house of infamous chainsaw murders!
I’m sticking with that backstory because it makes more sense than this whole movie does.
Froemming: The man’s wife is played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who was my third crush growing up after Princes Leia and Audrey Horne from “Twin Peaks.” And she plays a nosey woman who makes a mess of the kitchen to make her boozy lemonade, asks rude personal questions about when or why Mother will have children or if she wants them, and tells Mother she needs sexier underwear because Him is old and probably has a dysfunction they talk about in commercials with old couples on horses.
This is when my Midwest politeness would have ended and I would have strongly urged these people they should probably look into a modest-priced hotel or something after I gave them a snack. I’m not a monster, but I do have my limits.
Brown: Oh, Michelle Pfeiffer’s character deserved to be beaten with a bag full of doorknobs for being that intrusive and judgemental. When it comes to anyone and their kids or why they don’t have kids, you crossed a line where I don’t feel any sympathy for the repercussions that are coming your way.
That’s when it dawned on me: This movie is a two-hour episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” where the worst people in the world come into a unassuming person’s life and go on to destroy them. They did it to Rickety Cricket and now they’re doing it to Mother.
You don’t do that. To quote Mr. T, treat your mother right.
Froemming: On top of the rude questions, the wife also keeps trying to go into Him’s personal office where he keeps his magic whatchamacallit from the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Brown: So… a crystal skull?
Froemming: It looks too phallic to be a skull.
So not only does she have a smoker in the house who literally seems to have coughed up a lung which she finds in the toilet later, she has a functioning alcoholic with snooping issues. This is literally the best description of what my personal hell would be like.
So Him take the man out on a nature walk, Mother finds the lung in the toilet and we got drunky McGee making a scene.
The man comes back, on the verge of coughing up his other lung, and Mother informs Him that in their luggage is a photo of him. He’s famous though so he is cool with it. A famous poet in 2017? I don’t think so! HAHAHAHA!
Him says he knows, the guy informed them while they were out on their Bromance Walk, and then they hear a crash from upstairs.
The smoker and the drunk broke the crystal thing. Either he dropped it from being sick and shaky or she dropped it from being drunk and shaky? I dunno.
Brown: Him… doesn’t take that well, wanting to be left alone and eventually being so angry that he squeezes the broken glass and has blood gush out of his hand.
Now, do the man and the wife take the social cue to leave the house? If I recall correctly, they start having sex on the pull-out bed.
They are a sleepy day away from being the man on the couch from “Half-Baked.”
And it gets even worse when the intrusive couple has their kids come over! Turns out, one of the two sons got written out of the man’s will and a scuffle ensues. And, it ends with a broken doorknob to the head that results in the youngest son dying due to blunt-force trauma.
So now there’s a dead guy bleeding all over the guestroom, an eldest son who ran off into the woods like a raccoon that got caught eating trash and grieving parents you can no longer kick out of the house due to the social contract.
My anxiety is high just typing that out.
Froemming: Look, I know I am a #SnowFlake and all, but this movie made me want to buy a gun to keep the riff-raff out of my home.
Brown: I’m definitely looking up hotels later.
Froemming: Him takes the boy to the hospital with the family-that-knows-no-social-cues, leaving Mother on her own to clean up the mess.
Men truly suck, don’t we?
While cleaning up, Mother sees blood coming from walls, the blood eats through the wood, and finds a hidden room in the house. If I saw this happening, I’d knock myself out with that yellow drink too because this is the perfect ending to a truly (REDACTED) up day.
Later on, the murderer brother shows up, says hi and grabs his wallet. I think he says he is surprised she is still there. Me too. I would have taken off right after I saw the couple bumping uglies on my couch. You win some, you lose some. This was a loss, time to hit the old dusty trail.
Brown: Once I saw my significant other bleed via glass squeezing in rage, that’s when I’m like “OK, you’re going through some shit. You cool off tonight, I’ll go stay with some family.”
During the house bleeding scene, a hole in the floor reveals something in the basement, which mother finds out is a tank of oil and not Al Capone’s vault like I originally thought. It wouldn’t have fit in at all, but it would have been great to rub it in Geraldo’s face.
So, the kid died at the hospital and now we have a grieving family AND a bunch of well wishers and mourners coming as well. And these people are trashing the place, sitting on the unstable sink and following Will Ferrell’s lead from “Wedding Crashers” and trying to have sex during a funeral/memorial. I guess Will was right: Funerals make women crazy horny.
All in all, this is my anti-social hell.
Froemming: Oh yeah, rude people showing up in the middle of the night going through my stuff is nightmare-fuel.
After destroying the sink, Mother finally screams for all of them to get the hell out. Her and my nightmare has subsided as everyone leaves.
But she isn’t finished yet. She confronts Him about all this nonsense, and mocks his inability to perform his…uh, “marriatial duties” and things go from bad to worse when he just ups and (REDACTED) ASSAULTS her!
Him is in Weinstein territory now, and it made me very uncomfortable.
Brown: Wikipedia calls it “passionate lovemaking.” It definitely started as assault. I’m not giving Him the benefit of the doubt. That’s what the pre-#Metoo world did.
Anyways, mother KNOWS she is now pregnant and is very happy that she’ll have a child.
Look, I’m not a father. Never have tried to be one. No woman has wanted my children to my knowledge. But I am 100 percent positive that no one will KNOW they’re pregnant mere hours afterwards. I know I’ll hear “Oh, she had faith she was pregnant.” Yeah, I’m not going with that. Plus, I was concerned that A. she was, you know, assaulted. And B. Him seemed like the type of guy to ghost mother. Except he’s apparently the most profitable poet of all time.
As someone who writes professionally, the second half of the movie was all sorts of baffling/infuriating.
A result of J-Law’s insane declaration of pregnancy inspires Him and he begins writing. Naked. Like a John Lennon type that I saw try to kill James Bond a couple years ago.
Froemming: More like he is going to kill someone with an captive bolt pistol like Anton Chigurh?
Yeah, time starts to move on but we only tell because of her growing baby bump. And Him has finally finished his poem? A book of poems maybe, but one seems like this guy is just a trust fund kid who never went anywhere in life.
How do we know he has finished? He ignores Mother’s joy at the baby kicking so he can celebrate writing his nonsense that nobody will ever read because poetry is as popular as stick ball these days.
Then his publisher calls to say it is good. He just finished it, but they read it already? Even Mother finds this to be kinda stupid.
Brown: As Him was writing, I thought he was going to tell mother that he was drawing. Drawing conclusions. Like he was Dennis Reynolds talking to the psychologist.
Also, at one point I think Him was writing with a quill pen, thus proving he’s a pretentious (REDACTED).
Things seem to be going well between the two. They’re in the midst of having a family, Him is writing and the mystery floor vagina is gone.
And then the rest of the world decides they love poetry again, buys every copy of a book that I can only assume is one poem and they start flocking to the house that, again, is in the middle of nowhere, like Him was the (REDACTED) Pope at the Vatican.
Again, the ONLY way anyone knows where this house is is due to its history as a murder den for Leatherface.
Froemming: I thought the celebration of life thing after the brother was nuts, but what follows has to be the most insane, panic attack-inducing half-hour or so of film I sat through in a long time.
Brown: Ehh, it’s nothing we didn’t see at Woodstock 99.
Froemming: This didn’t have Limp Bizkit, so this is better.
The media shows up, then the fans and it quite quickly keeps escalating from rude visitors, to people just up and breaking in, to a (REDACTED) WAR ZONE with police, a cult and people locked in (REDACTED) cages! People are getting killed left and right, all over a stupid book of poetry.
Worst. Book. Signing. Ever.
Brown: I feel like that’s the typical book signing for Ann Coulter.
Yeah, this movie goes from high stress for an introvert to both insane and, if we’re honest, really stupid. Like, why did this movie have to become a “Call of Duty” video game?
Frankly, this would have fit into this scene and I wouldn’t have batted an eye.
Amidst all the bloodshed and chicken wire jails and general insanity, mother is about to, well, become a mother. And since they’re not allowed to leave the house, Him takes mother into his study that was previously boarded up so she can deliver the child.
Froemming: When Him wouldn’t let her out of the house, that’s when I realized this had to be a hell of some kind for Mother. I was kinda right, it is a hell sure enough, but we see what comes later.
So Mother has the baby in a locked room with a loser poet, which I imagine was a common tale in San Francisco circa 1967, and he wants to hold the baby. Look, he let in a mob into the house which melted into a war with Kristen Wiig as his manager, it is time for Him to take a long look in the mirror and see what his life has become.
And the moment Mother falls asleep, he grabs the child so his cult can take a look. And…it doesn’t end well for anyone involved.
Brown: I will admit, this is one of those moments where I thought, “No, no movie would do this.” NOPE. They did it. I’ll give this movie credit for being gutsy.
This movie features a baby having its neck broken and said baby being torn apart and being eaten by these rabid fans. Why? Reasons, I guess?
Like “Blue Velvet,” this movie tries to go with the symbolism. I thought it was an extreme look at celebrity and trying to fill that hole in your life with everyone BUT who actually loves you. Then I read the Wikipedia and they talked about the movie being an allegory for the Bible.
And then it lost me. “Blue Velvet” made more sense than this movie. And I can’t believe I said that about anything.
Froemming: My takeaway was similar to yours: Filling a hole in life while not realizing the thing you truly need is right there.
Or this is just a (REDACTED) up movie, that works too.
Mother grabs glass and rightfully starts stabbing these cult members for eating her child. Then they beat the (REDACTED) out of her, which was another disturbing scene.
Mother escapes to the basement, to the hidden room and burns the whole damn place to the ground.
Just like we learned what happened to Him at the beginning of the movie. His hellish cycle to be loved starts anew as he pulls a Kano from “Mortal Kombat,” tears out her heart and crushes it into a new crystal and THE WHOLE DAMN THING STARTS ALL OVER AGAIN!
With a different woman, a house is rebuilt, she wakes up and like me, is wondering what the hell is going on.
Why don’t we head to our private study and write out our recommendations in the nude and with a quill pen?
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: I would, just because of how insane this movie is. This is one of those movies you have to admire the filmmaker for having the guts to just say “(REDACTED) it, I am doing what I want.”
Brown: I don’t think so. It’s a beautiful disaster of a movie and visually, it did blow me away. It just makes no sense. If there was anything that resembled a tangible plot, then sure. But, I didn’t see it.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: