The challenge is to find entertainment that’s smart and good without having to invest too much time sifting through the pile of lesser things. Rotten Tomatoes ratings and Cinemascore grades can be aids in that effort, even though they can also minimize people’s desire to read full reviews causing them to miss out on the kind of nuance a score or grade can’t capture. But the biggest problem may be the narrative that they can create when the ratings aren’t pretty, especially when paired with box office numbers: the failure narrative. And that’s exactly what’s happening with mother!, Darren Aronofsky’s latest film.
Here are the stats coloring the perception that mother! is a failure: a 69% Tomatometer score among critics, an F from filmgoers polled by Cinemascore, and an opening weekend total of $7.5 million at the domestic box office (with $6 million additional from international markets).
mother! “only” cost $30 million (not counting marketing costs) to make and they’re almost halfway to that number with the hope that international markets, home video, and maybe an (unlikely) awards season bump will allow a few more dollars to trickle in despite the negative connotations associated with bombing. As we pointed out in our own box office report (which provided some context for the film’s performance), curiosity may also lift those numbers. Jennifer Lawrence is a big name and Aronofsky brings with him some cache due to the acclaim of The Wrestler and Black Swan, but if it wasn’t for that rare Cinemascore feat, we probably wouldn’t have noticed the thud based solely on the movie’s mixed critical reception and box office.
The audience reaction is noteworthy not just for its verdict, but for the intensity that comes with it, however. Here’s a (small) sampling of fan reviews/complaints from Rotten Tomatoes. There are more than sixty pages to sift through if you want to take a look.