Warning Some Spoilers Ahead!
Is it the best movie ever made? No, certainly not. But, is it a risk that pays off and creates a unique piece that is engrossing, confusing, and enlightening at the same time? Yes, definitely. There are a lot of reviews out about this movie, and it seems to have caused a big stir. Generally, it seems like people either hate it vehemently, or absolutely love it. Fortunately, as human beings, we are capable of having balanced reactions to things that don’t have to be on one extreme or the other. So here’s a review from somebody who thought the movie was quite good, but not earth shattering.
The Symbolism – The movie will tickle your intellectual fancy. If you’re a fan of religious symbolism or allegorical pieces, you’ll enjoy this film. There are plenty of moments that will make you go, “Oh, I know what that is!” and give you a little self gratification at how intelligent and observant you are. There are fun interpretations of Biblical narratives like the story of Cain and Abel, and the birth of the Messiah. The representations are quite obvious and in your face for the most part, so you’d have to be pretty dense or uninformed to miss the big ones. The setting and environment showcase the intricacies of mother earth pretty well too. The disrepair of the home, the bright fields and forest outside, and the isolation of the setting add some striking visual thematic elements. Not only that, the film concludes by showing that love is the seed of all creation, which is a pretty beautiful way to wrap things up. Does God have to repeatedly destroy everything to draw the love out of people because He is never satisfied? Sure, but still, ya know, love is great and what not.
Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Kristen Wiig – Pfeiffer does a remarkable job playing an interpretation of Eve that has her as an invasive house guest who is far too inquisitive. This character also does a great job of pitting Bardem (representing God/the Creator) against Lawrence (mother earth). She is clearly ensconced in vice as well, which adds an additional dimension to the character. Adam and Eve, despite the strict instructions of mother, go to the chamber with the seed of creation (forbidden fruit) and destroy it. After that, they descend into sin, and Pfeiffer does an excellent job incorporating all the different parts of her character into one body. It’s a joy to watch.
Bardem, as usual, delivers a stunning performance. He plays a version of the creator seeking inspiration for his next creation. He becomes the subtle antagonist, putting his creation through recurring terrible ordeals so that he can deliver himself from “writer’s block.”
Kristen Wiig is a nice surprise in the movie. She enters as Bardem’s publisher, spurring on his adoring fans. She adds a nice breath of comic relief just from her presence. It’s a good cameo that I didn’t expect, but which added a welcome reprieve form the otherwise continuous gloom of the film.
The Pace – The exposition of the Cain and Abel story, in my opinion, took a bit too long. There were some unnecessarily lengthy sequences that could have been shortened. It’s not a huge deal, but the movie did draw on a little bit in the beginning.
Jennifer Lawrence – Lawrence is a terrible casting choice for this film, and she delivers a severely underwhelming performance. Her character only seems to show emotion when it’s absolutely required. Otherwise, her performance is dead, inside and out, and rather reminiscent of what she was like in the Hunger Games films. This film demands dynamic and real emotion. Lawrence is supposed to be mother earth reacting to a continuously changing and strenuous environment, yet she manages to capture none of the subtlety of the changing tides, none of the gentle caress of the breezes, or the vigor of earthquakes. Her portrayal of the mother is one dimensional and, quite frankly, amateurish. The only time we really see anything come out of her is when she has to scream or react violently. But any dime a dozen horror movie white girl can scream on camera. And even those scenes fall somewhat dead, with Lawrence failing to convey real visceral anguish.
I don’t necessarily think it’s her fault, though. There are so many actresses who would have been better suited for the role. Not just to fight the whitewashing in Hollywood, but as a genuine casting choice, I think a choice like Rosario Dawson, Lupita Nyong’o, or even Halle Berry would’ve been so much better. Not only are they all far superior actresses to Jennifer Lawrence, but it would’ve been great if God didn’t create only white people.
The movie is great as a whole. It is an artistic film, and something uniquely engaging. The symbolism is stimulating, and the plot is captivating. Some of the actors deliver exceptional performances that add a lot to the film. You should see it for all those reasons.
Unfortunately, Jennifer Lawrence really makes this film much worse than it should be. It’s tragic that she is the centerpiece of what is an otherwise beautifully conceived piece of art.