2017 Awards Profile: ‘Mother!’ From Darren Aronofsky

Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Mother!”
PRODUCERS: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel
DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures

DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky
WRITER: Darren Aronofsky

CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig, Stephen McHattie, Jovan Adepo, Stefan Simchowitz

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): Centers on a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: When filmmaker Darren Aronofsky gets down and dirty, the results can be special. With both “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler,” Aronofsky made gritty little gems that the Academy embraced. Here, he seems to be following that template again with “Mother!” this year. As of the publishing of this article, there are no official images and basically nothing is known about the production. Still, the air of mystery is creating an aura of excitement around it. The aforementioned films swooped in late in the season and got some major praise. That could be the path again here in 2017. Don’t forget, his sophomore feature “Requiem for a Dream” got Ellen Burstyn a Best Actress nomination, so voters have been going for his films to one degree or another for nearly two decades.

Star Jennifer Lawrence is a choosy actress and almost always attaches herself to prestige material. She dropped out of an equally buzzy picture to make this one happen, so that should be taken as a good sign. Despite her young age, Lawrence is primed to win another Academy Award sooner rather than later, so could this be the one to do it for her? She’s got an able supporting cast here, including fellow Oscar winner Javier Bardem, in addition to four-time nominee Ed Harris and three-time nominee Michelle Pfeiffer. That doesn’t even include another nominee in Kristen Wiig, plus the likes of Jovan Adepo, Domhnall Gleeson and more.

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As long as he keeps it simple, Aronofsky usually hits the mark in a big way. “Mother!” seems like a hybrid of the aforementioned “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler,” at least speculatively. He’s got his longtime cinematographer Matthew Libatique behind the camera again, which is promising. Libatique scored his first nomination in Best Cinematography for “Black Swan.” Another exciting element at play is Jóhann Jóhannsson handling the score. Composer Clint Mansell normally works with Aronofsky, but Jóhannsson is no slouch himself. The team in place here is top notch, which should help Aronofsky, already one of the best filmmakers in the industry, potentially reach new heights.

Putting all the elements of “Mother!” together, you get the potential for something very different than most of the other Oscar contenders this year. If that’s the case, and if the quality is there, Aronofsky and Lawrence should be heavy players again in 2017. There’s no way to know right now, but sight unseen, it’s a hard one to bet against. All the ingredients are there for a top tier success that voters could have a hard time resisting.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: When people don’t like an Aronofsky movie, they really don’t like it. This humble writer may think “The Fountain” is a masterpiece, but it’s decidedly a minority opinion. “Noah” is even less well regarded. “Mother!” will have to be far away from those two in order to survive the season. Purely in terms of the mysterious log line, it might have more in common with Aronofsky’s debut “Pi,” which is a terrific movie, but one that the Academy paid no mind to. That will be the challenge here. Will voters look at this and think that it’s something they don’t need to make a priority? If they don’t flock to it, it’ll go by the wayside.

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Then there’s the issue of genre. Is this a horror film? Could it be a psychological thriller? What about simply a drama? Frankly, what is it? There’s also the matter of Paramount Pictures being a bit of a mess right now. This mid-range type production will need a strong campaign and deft marketing. Will they be up to the task? These elements are out of the hands of the filmmaker, but they have to at least be considered. The late fall is a long way away, so lots can change, but it certainly won’t be smooth sailing for “Mother!” until then. A successful festival bow might be what it needs, though a poor one could cripple it.

Depending on the size of the flick, “Mother!” could also wind up just too small to be noticed. Aronofsky, Lawrence and company will try to prevent that from happening, but time will tell. Perhaps it won’t feel like a prestige player and fade away during the precursors? The October release date could go either way. Only time will tell.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

Motion Picture – Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel
Director – Darren Aronofsky
Actor in a Leading Role – Javier Bardem
Actress in a Leading Role – Jennifer Lawrence
Actor in a Supporting Role – Domhnall Gleeson
Actress in a Supporting Role – Michelle Pfeiffer
Original Screenplay – Darren Aronofsky
Production Design – Philip Messina
Cinematography – Matthew Libatique
Film Editing – Andrew Weisblum
Original Score – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advance Oscar Predictions
and see where “Mother!” ranks!

About Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of Indiewire's Criticwire Network as well as the Internet Film Critics Association.
  • Joey Magidson

    This feels like one of the biggest X factors of the season to me. Either it’ll be a nonstarter with voters or it could be that unusual nominee that sneaks in for a half dozen nominations.

    • Borja Olarra

      Exactly. Though I completely agree with what you wrote about Lawrence primed to win sooner than later. We all know the Academy loves her, and when they reward actresses twice, the second Oscar comes in very soon after they won their first, think of Hilary Swank winning in 2000 and 2005, Jodie Foster in 1989 and 1992, Olivia de Havilland in 1947 and 1950: all won in a span of 5 years max, Lawrence won in 2013 so 5 years will have passed, though I wouldn’t want her taking it from Jessica Chastain twice like Swank did to Annette Benning!

      Also, if Lawrence, Harris, and Pfeiffer get in, wouldn’t it be logical to have Javier Bardem in the thick of the Best Actor race? He is great in every movie, even if they aren’t that good, hence why he was nominated for ‘Biutiful’.

      • Joey Magidson

        That’s definitely all true. It’s a movie that has huge potential, though there’s just so little to go on right now that it makes any real predicting hard.

  • Matt St.Clair

    Jovan Adepo is in this?! Holy crap, I did not know that. I’m already super excited about this because of Aronofsky and the cast. But damn, my excitement has just heightened.

    • Joey Magidson

      There you go. Glad to be of service.

  • Tee

    As strange as it is to say, I can see J-Law being a sixth spot for this awards season of the film lands.

    • Joey Magidson

      It certainly could happen.