When it comes to the rift between critics and paying audiences, there hasn't been a more divisive movie this year than director Darren Aronofsky's Mother. The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence, and some call the plot indescribable. The short gist is that a couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. It's an allegory for the bible, and at it's core, it's about wrecking Mother Nature. While Aronofsky and Lawrence, as well as Paramount, defended the thriller upon it's initial release back in September, acclaimed director Martin Scorsese is now coming out in defense of the movie. And he thinks most people got it wrong.
Scorsese penned a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, where he not only defends Mother, but also berates the audiences eager to give it an F, finding joy in grading a movie as such. And he calls out aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes. He believes that they are ruining the moviemaking business and squashing the true auteurs, something Lucasfilm has recently been accused of doing by firing its Star Wars directors. He first says this about audiences who gave the movie an F on Cinemascore.
"Many seemed to take joy in the fact that mother! received an F grade from Cinemascore. This actually became a news story. [The movie] had been "slapped" with the "dreaded" Cinemascore F rating, a terrible distinction that it shares with pictures directed by Robert Altman, Jane Campion, William Friedkin and Steven Soderbergh. After I had a chance to see mother!, I was even more disturbed by this rush to judgment. People seemed to be out for blood, simply because the film couldn't be easily defined or interpreted or reduced to a two-word description. Is it a horror movie, or a dark comedy, or a biblical allegory, or a cautionary fable about moral and environmental devastation? Maybe a little of all of the above, but certainly not just any one of those neat categories."
Martin Scorsese is a filmmaker. Perhaps one of the best around. So he'll notice things about a movie most audiences would never think to look at. He pays attention to the small details. And his thoughts on Mother are quite different from your average mom or pop heading out to the movies on Friday night, expected to see a midline horror movie. He praises Mother, saying this about the movie.
"Is it a picture that has to be explained? What about the experience of watching mother!? It was so tactile, so beautifully staged and acted-the subjective camera and the POV reverse angles, always in motion...the sound design, which comes at the viewer from around corners and leads you deeper and deeper into the nightmare...the unfolding of the story, which very gradually becomes more and more upsetting as the film goes forward. The horror, the dark comedy, the biblical elements, the cautionary fable-they're all there, but they're elements in the total experience, which engulfs the characters and the viewers along with them. Only a true, passionate filmmaker could have made this picture, which I'm still experiencing weeks after I saw it."
Martin Scorsese goes onto slam Rotten Tomatoes. It's very clear that he doesn't like the site and what it's used for. He thinks it holds no place in the business. He explains his opinion.
"Rotten Tomatoes [has] nothing to do with real film criticism. They rate a picture the way you'd rate a horse at the racetrack, a restaurant in a Zagat's guide, or a household appliance in Consumer Reports. They have everything to do with the movie business and absolutely nothing to do with either the creation or the intelligent viewing of film. The filmmaker is reduced to a content manufacturer and the viewer to an unadventurous consumer."
Martin Scorsese is certainly fired up on this subject, and he's got a point to some degree, though many have already disagreed and provided counterpoints as to why he may be wrong. The filmmaker, who is busy shooting The Irishman with longtime collaborators Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci goes onto say this.
"These firms and aggregators have set a tone that is hostile to serious filmmakers-even the actual name Rotten Tomatoes is insulting. And as film criticism written by passionately engaged people with actual knowledge of film history has gradually faded from the scene, it seems like there are more and more voices out there engaged in pure judgmentalism, people who seem to take pleasure in seeing films and filmmakers rejected, dismissed and in some cases ripped to shreds. Not unlike the increasingly desperate and bloodthirsty crowd near the end of Darren Aronofsky's mother!"
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And Martin Scorsese, sharing his thoughts on The Hollywood Reporter, certainly has his when it comes to Mother and the aggregator sites that have helped shut down the movie at the box office. Mother is art. It was sold as a night out at the movies for simple folks looking for a few good scares. Of course there is going to be a rift in opinions about it. Whether any movie is good or bad is up to the viewer. In this case, Martin Scorsese just so happens to think Mother is great, and that most audience members got it wrong.