As you may have heard, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! was given an F Cinemascore after it opened last weekend. Worse, though, it only brought in $7.5 million at the box office. Paramount, however, is hoping that mother! will gain ground as Megan Colligan, the studio’s head of distribution, told Variety that, “I don’t think the story is really written on this movie”. Which is why they messaging around mother! has been tweaked, slightly, from “see the movie that everybody’s talking about!” to “come see the movie that everyone hated so much!”
But is everyone really talking about mother!? (I continue to be annoyed at the stylisation and the punctuation of the title of this movie.) People who discuss movies for a living might be talking about mother! Cinephiles might be talking about mother! But this is the kind of echo chamber that we’re also seeing on political issues. Does the noise escape beyond its own environment?
As mentioned the other day, Jacek, Emily, and I went to see mother! on Saturday. Didn’t care for it. Which is not exactly what Darren Aronofsky expected would happen. What he wanted was for some people to love it, others to hate it, and that we’d either love or hate it so much we’d be obsessing over why. This has not been my experience. And it’s not like I’m above obsessing. I am however not interested in obsessing over something so obvious. There’s nothing more obvious than a film styled in lower-case with a f-cking exclamation point at the end of it. Or a filmmaker calling his own movie a “punk movie”, which is what Darren said yesterday:
“We wanted to make a punk movie and come at you. And the reason I wanted to come is because I was very sad and I had a lot of anguish and I wanted to express it. Filmmaking is such a hard journey. People are constantly saying ‘No’ to you. And to wake up every morning and get out of bed and to face all those ‘No’s,’ you have to be willing to really believe in something. And that’s what I look for in my collaborators and what I pitched the actors.”
I gave him the same eyeroll I gave Ryan Adams, all those years ago, when he first broke up with Mandy Moore. And had to release a statement about the breakup to OK! Magazine about their split. This was his statement:
"Mandy is one of those genuinely sweet angelic people you wish to meet your whole life. I am grateful for our friendship and how it allowed us both to grow and learn more.
Unfortunately I am allergic to paparazzi and have found the best antidote to that sort of nonsense is staying behind the guitar and typewriter, staying close to my support group of friends and band mates and not engaging in activities that prevent me from taking care of myself or others. I found the entire speculation and subsequent photographs and intrusions terrifying and only wish to live as normal a life as possible, so that I might always remain punk as f*ck AND sober.”
You see the similarities? Ryan’s art was being compromised by the paparazzi. And Darren’s art was being compromised because being an artist is so hard, OK guys? It’s so hard.
So what I said then about Ryan Adams also applies to Darren Aronofsky: the active pursuit of being “punk as f-ck” is the antithesis of being “punk as f-ck”.
That said, Hollywood is full of narcissistic navel-gazers (is that redundant?). Which is why Paramount is now pushing the “courage” angle as a way to promote their movie and argue its relevance:
“This movie is very audacious and brave. You are talking about a director at the top of his game, and an actress at the top her game. They made a movie that was intended to be bold,” says Paramount worldwide president of marketing and distribution Megan Colligan. “Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell. This is our version. We don’t want all movies to be safe. And it’s okay if some people don’t like it.”
Basically what she’s saying is that Paramount and Darren deserve credit for supporting and producing a film that isn’t a tentpole. And this is what they’re selling to the Academy. Darren was joined by Jennifer Lawrence yesterday at a screening for the Academy in New York. Jen put up her middle finger, presumably to the haters. Because that’s “punk as f-ck” too. Because this is the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the governing board for the Oscars, the organisation criticised for being predominantly made up primarily of old white men. And getting THEIR approval is the mark of a true punk?