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  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: A number of critics don't see the movie as Darren Aronofsky insists as a neo-Biblical allegory about environmentalism, but as a symbolic take on how artists commit Muse Abuse for their art, and are trapped in cycles of exploiting their world for material for their art:
    Richard Brody: Aronofsky has long strained after art of a vast mythopoetic magnitude. In “Mother!,” he achieves it—but not at all in the way that he thinks. This morning, on Twitter, someone asked me, “What was the point of the biblical references if the movie is basically about how much it sucks to be in a relationship with a male artist?,” to which my response was, “Exactly.” In other words, “mother!” isn’t an allegory except by directorial decree.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • The biggest debate — is Him genuinely remorseful for what he's put mother through or is it all part of the sadistic game he's playing to fuel his ability to write, especially since the film makes it clear he's willing to let it all happen again? Did he ever really love her at all? And, as she brings up, does he even truly love the houseguests or does he merely love the adoration they give Him, and have a gossip-hound's interest in hearing their "stories" above caring for their welfare? (Keep in mind Him letting the guests run wild causes them immense suffering — disproportionately so for the women — and, assuming he is aware of the cycle, leads to them all dying horribly by fire.) Who is truly to blame for the atrocities in the story, the houseguests or Him? (Given the central metaphor of the film, this ties in to Real Life theological arguments about how a supposedly benevolent God could create a world filled with suffering and demand worship from its inhabitants.)
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    • Along these lines, how much do the guests really deserve what they get? Quite a few of them are monsters, clearly, but we see that at least some of them were children brought there by their parents, and many of them are abused, enslaved and even raped and murdered by other guests. We see that some of the guests, at least initially, are willing to help mother — one soldier protecting her from the others, a doctor helping her through labor. Are we meant to take the ending as a straight Humans Are Bastards message or is it more of a tragedy that mother's vengeance falls on the guilty and innocent alike? Obviously this also ties in with Real Life theology and questions of collective vs. individual guilt as well as the concept of original sin. Note that while the inhabitants of the house are at war prior to the baby's birth, afterwards they seem to be at peace and united — and all participate in the wild mob that ends up killing the baby, and everyone that we can see also participates in the Twisted Eucharist and in giving mother a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown for interrupting it. Aside from fitting the final arc of the film this sudden unity may reflect the Christian doctrine that all humans bear the spiritual guilt of the Crucifixion.
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    • The Woman. Is her advice to mother inappropriately familiar and demeaning, part of a Jerkass habit of putting down the younger woman to make herself feel better? Or is it genuinely well-meaning advice from someone with greater experience of the world — especially of men — that mother just doesn't want to hear? How you feel about Woman may depend on the degree to which you see the film's message as specifically feminist.
    • There's some theories in regards what the baby represents. Some argue it represents Jesus Christ and his eventual death and humanity's involvement in his death (which would explain the Twisted Eucharist) but others argue the baby represents the essence of life created by Mother and the baby's brutal death representing humanity destroying the last living resource it has. Do the house guests truly feel regret on killing it? Was the killing accidental or was it just them being twisted? The accidental part tends to come in due to the fact they were crying after it was killed and beforehand they seemed to be worshipping it but the twisted part comes with the fact they proceeded to gut and eat its remains.
  • Anvilicious: It's hard for a movie this confusing to be accused of this, but people agree the houseguests are such monsters that the movie's condemnation of whatever they represent — misogyny, capitalism, organized religion, pollution — is really over-the-top. Indeed, it is specifically comparing them to doing the worst thing most people can imagine doing (killing and cannibalizing a baby).
  • Audience-Alienating Premise:
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The heart Mother finds in the toilet. It's clearly different from the omnipresent heart in the walls of the house. It's implied it belongs to the Woman — Mother finds it while picking up the mess Woman has left around the house including bloody tissues by the bathroom sink — but Woman appears to have suffered no change at all to herself from losing her heart and the matter is never brought up again. (Perhaps the message is that there are a lot of women in the world who tear out their own hearts on a regular basis, until such a thing becomes a minor nuisance like defecating or menstruating.)
    • A frog is in the basement for no other apparent purpose than to surprise Mother.
  • Broken Base: Over the baby's death and eventual gutting. Most film goers absolutely hated the scene due to it being incredibly violent and sickening while others do feel the scene comes off as fitting with the movie's message, Anvilicious or not. There's no actual middle ground as most people can't decide if it was just a shock death for the sake of terrifying the audience. Also borderlines into Nausea Fuel too.
  • Catharsis Factor: Mother briefly manages to kill some of the fanatics who killed and ate her baby. Unfortunately, it's followed by the cultists nearly beating her to death and verbally abusing her, but it becomes somewhat cathartic again when she destroys the house and burns the whole cult to ashes.
  • Critical Dissonance: A case where critics for the most part largely liked the film, with it landing 69% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, however, gave it a CinemaScore of F. Even critics themselves have been dissonant towards it, as the awards have been polarizing: on one hand, it has been nominated for several awards at film festivals, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival; on the other, it was nominated for three Razzies.
  • Critical Research Failure: To a good portion of the audience, regardless of whatever this movie is saying, it makes no damned sense according to even symbolic logic, mostly because the symbols are incoherent and deployed in ways that only make sense according to Word of God's idiosyncratic interpretation of religion and environmentalism, and falls apart to anyone deeply familiar with it, with either and/or both:
    • Regardless of one's sentiment towards religion, it has very little to do with the debate of global warming and to the extent it does (such as using selective Biblical interpretation to deny climate change science), the film is pretty useless in addressing it, especially since the ending shows that the world of the film has Eternal Recurrence, where a new mother and new house emerge from the previous one's ashes, which is more or less the contrary to climate change activists' warnings of irreversible harm and it affirms denialists' belief that climate change is a matter of "natural cycles" that naturally repair themselves.
    • The film's take on the Judeo-Christian theology which it addresses via allegory falls apart on the basis of Fridge Logic. To start with, in Aronofsky's view mother represents Mother Nature and Him is God the Father. Now "mother nature" is not a biblical concept at all. It's a folkloric concept, dating to 1266 AD, i.e. less than a thousand years old. Secondly, if Him is God, and mother is Earth and if God created the earth, then that would mean the married couple are committing incest and Him is marrying and impregnating his own daughter. However, that last part is consistent with the biblical conception of Jesus.
    • The film implies that the baby is Jesus and getting eaten by people is meant as a Take That! about how Humans Are Bastards. The problem is that Jesus intended to and willingly chose to sacrifice himself for humanity. And after a day and a half he was resurrected and his death happened as an adult..
  • Cult Classic: After the opening weekend, Paramount's marketing seems to be aiming for this — the ad campaign acknowledges and even celebrates the extremely polarized reviews.
    "Some people love it"
    screenshots of several five-star reviews
    "Some people... don't"
    disgusted quote from a negative review
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: By act two, one might begin to wonder if there's any real positive traits to any of the characters. Many may come from the movie feeling completely unattached to any of them, and that instead of being a arthouse horror examining the cost of art on relationships to instead be an odd narcissistic glorification of Aronofsky's creative processes instead, especially since Him is rewarded at the end with a younger wife and a brand new house to repeat his cycle of creating things, rather than experience any punishment for arguably driving his wife (and however many other wives in previous cycles) to their deaths.
  • Don't Shoot the Message: Many reviewers, especially female critics, take pains to note that they understand the feminist message Aronofsky is pushing but find the Gorn, Wangst and pretentious biblical symbolism to all undermine the effectiveness of the message and make the film an unpleasant slog, especially for actual survivors of abuse. As with most movies like this the question is raised of whether it's worth using such trauma-inducing or otherwise disturbing material without any meaningful catharsis at the end.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Many reviewers who otherwise hated the film loved Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer in it. Pfeiffer, in particular, has come in for praise, to the point of people rooting for her character against Jennifer Lawrence. One reviewer even called Pfeiffer's performance here "the best of her career."
  • Epileptic Trees:
    • Due to the film having few little plot details revealed before its release, theories regarding the characters and setting were everywhere, like one of the theories being that the film is a remake of Rosemary's Baby, due to one of the former's posters being a homage to the latter.
    • Post-release, the speculation hasn't let up on what the message of the film is or what it's primarily supposed to be about. There's a broad consensus on what the none-too-subtle biblical allusions are, but whether the film allegorizes The Bible for its own sake or as a metaphor for something else is up for debate. Jennifer Lawrence has indicated her impression was Aronofsky's main goal was pushing a Green Aesop, but this is the interpretation many critics specifically find least interesting.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Jennifer Lawrence playing a wife subjected to neglect by her perfectionistic and narcissistic writer husband took on a new edge when Darren Aronofsky started dating her in Real Life during the course of filming. Many have pointed out Aronofsky and Lawrence's relationship has the same May–December Romance dynamic as Him and mother in the film. However, they broke up just a few months after the film's release, considerably easing back this subtext.
    • The fact that apparently Lawrence and Aronofsky broke up because Aronofsky couldn’t understand or accept the criticism and audience's disdain for the movie make Him and Mother’s relationship this.
      • The image of Him’s new work opening to unanimous acclaim and support sort of becomes this when juxtaposed with the actual film opening to anything but a unanimous response, let alone a positive one.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: One TV spot showed off the film's original "certified fresh" stamp from Rotten Tomatoes. This was before the film's score dropped to less than 70%, thereby removing its certified fresh status.
  • It Was His Sled: The "shocking moment" that Paramount hyped up became well-known after release. Although it's really hard to argue that the guests eating a dead baby is something people wouldn't talk about.
  • Misaimed Marketing: Paramount tried to sell the film as a commercial, jumpscare-heavy horror movie instead of an arthouse-influenced psychological horror movie with heavy religious symbolism, resulting in a rare "F" CinemaScore from audiences who were positioned to expect the former.
  • Narm: Some might find the climax narm-ful rather than horrifying, especially given the blatant religious symbology throughout the earlier parts. Case in point, Kristen Wiig's character dual-wielding shotguns to execute several people is bound to leave some viewers lost in disbelief at the actress Playing Against Type as opposed to being scared of what she actually does. People have had similar reactions to the insanely rapid escalation from house-party-going-poorly to an outright dystopian Wretched Hive, and the houseguests ending up a not-even-human Hive Mind of brainwashed zombies. (The guests instantly switching emotions on cue at the end of the film is either the creepiest or narmiest part of the movie.)
  • Narm Charm: For those who liked the film and were able to stay emotionally invested in it, the sheer illogical absurdity of the Trauma Conga Line mother is made to endure just strengthens her pathos. The Narm Charm arguably starts with how much Man and Woman (whom most critics liked) play into comedic "bad houseguest" cliches. At least one reviewer explicitly told audience members "It's okay to laugh at this movie" (even if, toward the end, it's Mirthless Laughter).
  • Never Live It Down: The baby scene. It's no exaggeration most people these days know about the film's infamous reputation by the fact an infant has its neck and back snapped by a bunch of people crowdsurfing it and most people hold it in complete disgust because everyone hates the idea of a baby being killed.
  • Nausea Fuel: Opinions are divided on whether seeing the baby's stripped carcass was genuinely, meaningfully horrifying or just a cheap way to shock and disgust the audience.
  • Older Than They Think: Many people noted that an art-house movie about a couple living in a house in an out-of-the-way place filled with heavy themes of Christian and Gnostic allegory existed before this film; Lars von Trier's Antichrist.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: This film has many similarities in setting, themes and core conceit to the legendarily unfilmable The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder.
  • Tear Jerker: See here.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: A number of critics seem to enjoy the movie more because it's deliberately made to be unconventional and allegorical and leave viewers confused.
  • What an Idiot!: What else did Him and his followers think would happen when they pranced a barely month old baby around?
  • The Woobie: Mother is the physical embodiment of the Earth itself as well as the dutiful wife — and muse — of Him. Throughout the film, mother's sanity began to unravel when Him carelessly allows several people to invade the house to sate his ego. Upon becoming pregnant, waves of Him's rabid followers infiltrate the house, indulging in several degeneracies such as mass murder, slavery, and war. Despite tensions softening after mother gave birth, Him pries her son from her and presents him to the crowd. Being forced to helplessly watch her son get ripped apart and eaten by the hordes, mother tries to kill several of Him's followers only to be overpowered and stripped and beaten relentlessly. Even though she succeeds at wiping out the crowds by setting the house ablaze, the ending reveals mother was one of the many incarnations of Mother Nature, meaning she was condemned to suffer endlessly due to the cyclical nature of creation versus destruction.


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