darren aronofsky on mother f cinemescore

The “F” rating on CinemaScore is a dubious badge of honor that has been bestowed on few other films — which range from misunderstood, to mismarketed, to just plain terrible.

Few filmmakers would rejoice in an audience hating their movie, but Darren Aronofsky isn’t like many other filmmakers. The mother! director knows all about his film’s F CinemaScore — the lowest rating a film can get in a poll of audience reactions — and he embraces it. Encourages it, even.

Aronofsky told The Frame in a Q&A following a screening of the film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that he is excited about mother!‘s F rating on CinemaScore, explaining that his film was designed to provoke the audience:

“What’s interesting about that is, like, how if you walk out of this movie are you not going to give it an “F?” It’s a punch. It’s a total punch. And I realize that we were excited by that. We wanted to make a punk movie and come at you. And the reason I wanted to come is because I was very sad and I had a lot of anguish and I wanted to express it. Filmmaking is such a hard journey. People are constantly saying no to you. And to wake up every morning and get out of bed and to face all those no’s, you have to be willing to really believe in something. And that’s what I look for in my collaborators and what I pitched the actors, I said, ‘Look, this isn’t going to be a popularity contest. We’re basically holding up a mirror to what’s going on. All of us are doing this.’ But that final chapter hasn’t been written and hopefully things can change. And, to go back, the fact that it’s going down right now and things are really falling apart in a way that is really scary.”

In case you’re keeping up with the CinemaScore discourse, which has unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) become a great marketing tool for those morbidly curious about mother!, the number of films with an F-rating on Cinemascore has risen to 19. On social media, mother! has already made use of the polarizing reviews, releasing an extremely disturbing — and kind of misguided — poster of Jennifer Lawrence’s badly bruised face. It may be the beginning of ironic pearl-clutching marketing that goes along with Aronofsky’s quest to get a rise out of his audience.

Mother! TV spot

We Need More Movies Like This

This is no surprise to those who have seen the film — it seems designed to elicit a reaction from the audience by bombarding you with images that make you feel unease, discomfort, then outright revulsion. I admired the film for how far it was willing to go, and liked even more that it allows room for multiple interpretations outside of Aronofsky’s own intentions. I was ambivalent toward its “greater meaning” but I know people who loved it and people who absolutely despised it. And that’s okay. Audiences can have different reactions and readings of a story — it’s why “death of the author” is such a strong argument — but I only wish that filmmakers and studios would trust audiences to come to their own conclusions like Aronofsky does.

Aronofsky explained that mother! is “my howl,” a product of self-expression about his feelings of terror and uncertainty. “Some people are not going to want to listen to it,” he continued. “That’s cool.”

Who knows if more F-rated Cinemascore films will be discovered in the woodwork, or if other filmmakers will follow Aronofsky’s path and make an ambitious, audacious film without regard for the audience. In an age when Paramount has to formally address the reception of mother! I think we’re due for a few more challenging, reviled films that are just trying to say something, man.

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