Darren Aronofsky is one of those directors who has managed to hit a lot of ups and downs over the course of his career. He’s made his share of poorly received films, like Pi and Noah, but he also has The Wrestler and Black Swan under his belt. The latter of which is notable for being one of the few horror films to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards.
So naturally, when it was announced that Aronofsky’s next project was an arthouse horror film with a high-profile cast, it seemed like this film would be an Oscar darling. But the end result turned out to be an incredibly divisive film that seems incredibly far from the Academy’s comfort zone. Love it or hate it, it’s obvious that this film is not getting any Oscars.
I have to admit, I was enjoying the film while watching it. The slow build up to the eventual craziness is very well paced, and even when the film’s ending left me confused, I was willing to give it the benefit if the doubt. But when I looked online, I realized that the entire film is meant to be a religious allegory. And that’s where it lost me.
Throughout the entire film, I was never able to figure out what was real and what was in the protagonist’s mind. And I thought that this was genius, accomplishing an effect much like what Aronofsky accomplished with Black Swan. But at the end of the film, we are given a third option. It wasn’t real and it wasn’t in her head. It doesn’t need to make sense, because it’s symbolic.
And I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with that. In order for an allegory to work, the story has to be able to stand on it’s own. The Chronicles Of Narnia, Animal Farm, and even Zootopia can all be enjoyed for the effective stories that they tell, even if you aren’t aware that the stories are actually about the Gospel, communism, and racism respectively. But in this movie, you can’t see any of the characters for who they are, only who they represent.
It’s a shame, because the film is perhaps at its strongest when it isn’t trying to be symbolic. There are a few select scenes that emphasize the pain of Jennifer Lawrence’s character as a housewife with a famous husband. I almost feel that if Aronofsky had just made a straightforward drama, this could have been a better movie. We could have still had some symbolism, but it wouldn’t have to be the primary focus of the film.
With all that being said, however, Jennifer Lawrence is probably the best part of the film. She’s essentially playing a Hitchcock blonde, and she really puts her all into this role. While I doubt that the Oscars will be willing to embrace this movie, I fully expect Lawrence to get a Globe nomination at the very least. The remainder of the cast all do a good job, but make no mistake, this movie belongs to Lawrence.
I’ve seen some reviewers say that this movie is garbage from beginning to end. And I’ve heard some reviewers say that this movie is a masterpiece. Oddly enough, I can understand both arguments. For me, this movie had a lot of potential that it failed to live up to. The production quality is very strong, and I really like the sound design. The atmosphere of the film is great, and the buildup is very strong. As it is, I don’t think the film is awful, but I do think it could have been so much better.
**1/2 out of ****