What the f? As The Mother! united ‘bad film’ club

At the beginning of last week’s Toronto film festival, all I wanted to talk with anyone, it was the film that I just saw: Darren Aronofsky’s insanely bright and bold, the horror-thriller Mother!, all about the couple, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and Javier Bardem, that bad stuff happens at an exponential rate.

My friend Col Needham, the founder and chief executive of Internet Movie Database, smiled and said: “you know, I think that it is a Schrödinger’s film. Inside the box, there is a film that is very good and naughty at the same time.” Perhaps in this spirit, the Toronto Globe and Mail, noncommittally, and settled on two different star ratings for the Mother!: a star (“for the Aronofsky agnostic”) and four stars (“for the Aronofsky acolyte”). I myself had been an agnostic from Aronofsky’s previous mediocre movie about Noah.

F for fail … Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man. Photograph: Warner Bros/Everett/Rex Features

But what seems to be the case with the Mother! is that it is not really a question of criticism, disagreement between them, but the criticism is radically at odds with the public. So how could this chasm be successful? In situations like this, someone might say that the CinemaScore audience rejection of pretentiousness, as the child of the fairy tale, telling the emperor: “Put some clothes on, puh-leez.” But it is more a matter of casting, marketing, and storytelling.

The public upset, ways not to sign. Some of the tacit contract has been breached

Fans of megastar Lawrence you expect something more mainstream, more Hollywood, more reassuring. Katniss Everdeen thought that was difficult. But he never had anything to do with any thing like the stuff that happens in the Mother! If the film had been marketed lower on the radar, motoring along as Euro-style shocker, maintaining Bardem in his role, but perhaps to recast the female lead with someone like Carey Mulligan or Imogen Poots, the fanbase reaction and exit from word-of-mouth would not have been problematic. But the chemistry could have been all wrong between the leads, and, in fact, between the director and his female protagonist, and the film wouldn’t have been so electrifyingly good.

In my review, I suggested three movies that Mother! you are Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminator Angel, Roman Polanski, rosemary’s Baby and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist: surrealism, horror, arthouse provocation. Those who do not love the Mother! are those who don’t have or don’t like the third element, the deadpan black comedy that offers the von Trier vein. But it’s also the loopy is not quantifiable mix. There is no obvious genre for the Mother!, which makes it very difficult for the market. “Horror, thriller”, which in reality does not cover, and straight horror fans disappointed because they did not fit.

The public have been sold a sci-fi with George Clooney … Solaris. Photograph: Bob Marshak/AP

Then there is the storytelling. Basically, the cineplex, the public does not like surprises, and the whole point of this film is to raise the stakes again and again in a series of freaky quantum leaps in the third act. As a critic, I sometimes get into trouble for spoilerism, but in reality, most movie trailers are pure spoilers: customers need to be reassured that they know what they are getting. Even horror trailers give you a taste of the jump scare. Yet, for obvious reasons, the trailer for the Mother! do not want to give away the freaky crescendo. So, the public are upset in ways that have not signed up for. Some have not confirmed a consumer contract has been violated.

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Something similar happened when some of the hearings to Michael Haneke’s arthouse stalker nightmare Hidden (2005) declares to be unhappy, because the trailer had led them to expect a thriller in the conventional. And, of course, a lot of it is isolation and coldness. Rosemary’s Baby was and is shocking, but I suspect that in the years ‘ 70, the public at large were not so balkanised, not so thoroughly in the genre and are simply not in a conservative manner. The Film, the customers, at least temporarily, to accept the violent or scary or challenging films that happened to be playing a week at the your city the single-screen theatre. But since VHS, DVD, and download the tastes are satisfied. Mother! you have offended the Amazon rule: If you like this, you like …

Performed poorly at the box office release … The Night of the Hunter. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar

As for the other films in CinemaScore’s notorious F club, some of them are sticky. There is the Nicolas Cage remake of The Wicker Man, that really did deserve a dunce hat of some kind. There is Richard Kelly puzzle in the Box that was faulty, but it’s not absolutely terrible. But Killing them Softly was an excellent thriller. And Soderbergh version of Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky, despite being looked at with suspicion by some critics that he was not the business take on a venerable classic, was actually a very interesting, intelligent and useful of the film. But there is new, it is a marketing mismatch. The public have been sold a sci-fi with George Clooney and I am baffled by what seemed to be a grim and elusive tone.

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Great film that initially suffered derision and box-office disaster are a standard part of cinema legend. There is, for example, Charles Laughton, The Night of the Hunter, who appeared on the evil first version and is now considered a classic. But there are a lot of movies that had a great success at first, and found out years later … terrible. And it is not possible to prove exactly the opposite, pointing to the now forgotten film that won the Oscar and awards because their defenders can say: Ah yes, well, this film will be the time to come and will be rediscovered.

Mother! not that movies should do: intrigue, baffle, facing, entertain, excite and the characters speak in a way out of the cinema. I’m going to see it again.