Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (R)
Madness infiltrates a couple’s home.
Darren Aronofsky’s wild new psychodrama is “an instant landmark of test-your-limits cinema,” said Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York. The daring director of Black Swan “invents new shades of mania” in Mother!—a head trip that’s “without doubt” the “most radical studio film” since 1988’s Last Temptation of Christ. Jennifer Lawrence stars as a young wife who’s thinking about getting pregnant and redecorating her isolated country home while her irritable poet husband (Javier Bardem) broods alone in his study. As unexpected guests arrive and Lawrence increasingly suffers hallucinatory episodes, a “deliciously unsettling” hour passes before a violent nightmare sequence arrives that stands as “the moviegoing challenge of the year.” You could be left wondering “what, in the end, is the point,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. Given that Aronofsky doesn’t even seem to know, and despite the welcome presence of Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris, “the main reason to keep watching is Lawrence,” who’s radiantly guileless. Whatever Aronofsky’s aim, he’s made a startling film, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian (U.K.). “As horror it is ridiculous, as comedy it is startling and hilarious, and as a machine for freaking you out, it is a thing of wonder.”
Directed by Andy Muschietti (R)
A demonic clown terrorizes a small town.
“The scariest character in It isn’t a supernatural demon,” said Elena Nicolaou in Refinery29.com. Make no mistake: The child-devouring clown that the demon most often materializes as is “absolutely terrifying”— enough to jolt you out of your seat. But the reason the new adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel will stick with viewers is that it depicts a world where parents are at best blind to evil and at worst its perpetrators. “It is essentially two movies,” and “the better by far” is the one that follows seven likable prepubescent misfits around a 1980s Maine town as they investigate why other kids are going missing, said Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly. “Unless you’re really afraid of clowns,” Bill Skarsgard’s shape-shifting circus figure gets less scary the more we see him. “Every one of the young actors is beautifully cast,” so it’s a shame we don’t get more of them hanging out together, said Dana Stevens in Slate.com. Still, the effects-heavy climactic confrontation “garnered a huge response from the audience I saw It with: laughter, terror, and shrieks of squicked-out appreciation.” This huge horror hit is certain to sire a sequel, which gives the filmmakers a chance to get the recipe just right: “60 percent more friendship, 40 percent less clown.”
Directed by Martin Guigui (R)
A tragedy reimagined
It’s a rare feat when a movie makes viewers “want to both fall asleep and punch the screen at the exact same time,” said Nick Schager in TheDailyBeast.com. A “monumental testament to wrongheadedness,” 9/11 exploits a landmark tragedy to sell a “paper-thin” fiction about five New Yorkers trapped in an elevator at the World Trade Center just before the twin towers collapse. Adding further insult, the movie’s star is Charlie Sheen, a celebrity who has shared his suspicions that the destruction of the towers might have been an “inside job.” Sheen signed on to the project for one reason only—“pure ego,” said Rich Juzwiak in Jezebel.com. Having damaged his relationship with audiences, he hoped to redeem himself by making a memorable drama, but wound up making an inert drama that’s best ignored. Sheen plays a billionaire on his way to see a divorce lawyer with his estranged wife, who at one point during the ordeal turns on the group’s bike messenger to give a lecture about hard work, said Kimber Myers in the Los Angeles Times. If such ill-conceived dialogue happened in another movie, it’d be laughable. In 9/11, it’s like “picking at a still-healing wound with an ax.”