J.Law fans and horror-film buffs are all abuzz about the trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s new film mother! While Aronofsky and Lawrence are alleged to be romantically linked (and J.Law detractors are Twitter-blaming her for the breakup of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt during production of Passengers), the chatter is also drawing comparisons of the mother! trailer content to that of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968). In that critically heralded film, idealized blond Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) is unwittingly knocked up by the Devil. All this happens within a strangely distinct but old-fashioned apartment building (the infamous Dakota in NYC served as location), and fellow tenants are all members of a satanic cult who surface disturbingly in Rosemary’s nightmare haze. The surrogate pregnancy is enabled by Rosemary’s husband Guy (John Cassavetes) in exchange for success as an actor (probably more common than we realize). Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer offer the best in black comedy as manipulative, witchy neighbors.
The trailer for mother! shows parallels to the premise for Polanski’s masterpiece: J Law as a breathtaking blond female married to a mysterious man, brooding Javier Bardem in this case. They move into an isolated old house that feels like a dark vortex to Hell, which Lawrence transforms via interior decorating techniques like texture-rich wall treatments. Strangers start appearing. First it’s Ed Harris, not as Jackson Pollock to help paint the walls but merely as an ominous vagrant. Of course Bardem invites him into their home, causing worry to weigh heavy on J.Law’s lovely cheekbones. Thank heavens brilliant Michelle Pfeiffer arrives shortly thereafter, appearing the most sinister of all with unblinking evil—she should get an award, stating this in all seriousness. What else do we see? Blood leaking from walls and an exploding light bulb, a secret chamber (covered by the new wall treatment), a crazy yellow drink that looks different than Rosemary’s satanic prenatal liquid vitamin but J.Law gulps it down, and more ghoulish folks entering the fray. Finally Bardem admits he has orchestrated the whole “thing” for some ego-stroking benefit (all the visitors carry his photo). The mood is quite frightening for duped wife Lawrence as she spies dozens of flashlight-wielding people making a zombie-crawl pilgrimage toward their newly renovated house, which eventually chars black before our trailer-viewing eyes.
Besides Rosemary’s Baby, there are other psychological thrillers to which mother! tips the hat, such as David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. with outstanding descent into madness by (blond) Naomi Watts. Sleek blond Catherine Deneuve barricades herself against penises in Repulsion, also directed by (legally fucked-up and isolated) Polanski. So many Italian horror flicks would fit in a festival of this oeuvre, but Dario Argento’s Suspiria and its trailer come to mind. Although Suspiria protagonist Jessica Harper is a brunette in this story, there are other interesting coincidences: her character is a ballet student (Hello! Black Swan!), and the film is the first in a trilogy Argento calls “The Three Mothers.”
Theatrical release for mother! is September 15.