Loved it. Absolutely loved it. I walked home for 20 blocks grinning because it made me giddy. Right off the bat-was a lot of it completely over the top? Yes, absolutely. The whole second half requires you make a huge leap with him and I completely get if people didn’t/wouldn’t do that. It was kind of insane and little too much like, “THIS IS A METAPHOR” but I was pretty on board and loveddddd where it went and the payoff was enough for me, but there were definitely moments where I had my doubts.
The film opens on someone putting a glass egg rock on a mount and we see life come back into a house and a person forms in bed who rolls over and says, “Baby?” looking for someone. It’s Jennifer Lawrence and she gets out of bed and pads around this entire empty beautiful house and opens the door to look outside and is surprised by Javier Bardem behind her.
The acting in this is incredible and this first shot establishes that immediately-right when he comes up behind her, she beams and kisses him and he says, “I must stink” and she says, “I like it” and he says, “I need to wash up” or something to that effect, and leaves to take his shower while she watches him climb the stairs and he never looks back. We instantly can tell that she loves him more than he loves her, we just don’t know why.
Then there’s a lot of establishing shots following her around the house. He’s a writer, so he attempts to do that a lot and she sits around a lot watching him do that (girl!!!). She also has her own house stuff she does. We learn she’s fixed up almost the entire house by herself, it was his childhood home that burned to the ground that she’s rebuilt, sanded, reinforced, refurbished, all those words. One of the projects we see is her mixing plaster (?) and putting this dye/powder in it that she also later drinks (?) to make it different colors of beige and then uses a trowel to cover the wall with it. Why not paint? Why not a brush? Very unclear.
So this goes on for a while and it seems very terrible for her, she loves this person and he’s pretty emotionally withdrawn from her (only speaks to her briefly, always seems to want to get away) until one night when he’s “writing” (sitting in front of a blank piece of paper holding a pen) and they hear a knock at the door, spooky!
He tells her ‘stay here’ (ugh) and goes to answer. And it’s not spooky at all, it’s just Ed Harris! He’s a neurosurgeon and he’s come to stay because he thought it was a bed and breakfast. This is actually a lie and he’s a dying fan but we’ll get to that!!
He hits on Jennifer Lawrence and smokes in the house and generally gives her weird vibes. I forgot-before this she had a moment with the house where she pressed her hand against a wall and could feel a living thing with a heartbeat. She also keeps getting these dizzy spells that she drinks saffron for (the yellow dye) and it seems to help. Javier is like, ‘This isn’t a bed and breakfast but you can stay anyway, I hate my wife!’ And JLaw’s like ‘Wtf!!’ but caves because she’s too in love, which if not reciprocated, is a terrible blinding curse.
She goes to give Ed the linens for his bed later and finds him throwing up in the bathroom with Javier, with a huge gash on his back that they try to hide from her. Javier implores her to ‘give him some privacy’ in her own house but ok, and she leaves. She sees Ed’s lighter on an end table and pushes it off the edge to fall behind the dresser or whatever it is.
The next day his wife comes (Michelle Pfeiffer) and she is an alcoholic card. There’s a very tense scene where she’s asking Jennifer (no one has any names. The IMDB page is just, “Man, Woman, Him, Mother, Idler, Cupbearer, Damsel, Bumbler, Philaderer, Fool, etc.) why she doesn’t want kids, and how their sex life is, and it ends with her basically implying that Javier doesn’t love her anymore.
This movie escalates really quickly, people just keep coming into the house and Jennifer Lawrence is getting more and more upset, and finally the sons come and are arguing and one kills the other one (potential call to Cain and Abel? There’s a religious thing later we’ll get to) with a doorknob and leaves. The family rushes him to the hospital and Javier goes with them as Jennifer Lawrence is crying, “Please don’t leave me,” but of course he does, and she has to clean up the blood and everything by herself. This takes us on a magical realism tour of the house where the walls start crying blood and crumbling and she finds a passageway that a single toad hops out of. (Biblical reference to the plagues?) Jennifer was going to explore said cavern/hole but hears something upstairs. The brother who didn’t get murdered came back for his wallet and leaves but not before imparting, “He left you here alone? You really do understand” referencing how he was asking her if she understood while he cried, “They always leave me they were going to leave me all alone” and gripped her face in his blood covered hand. Hey buddy, buy a girl dinner first!
Javier comes back and she’s calmed momentarily, but then all these other people start pouring in because he said they could have the services at the house. This escalates more and more until people break the sink (it’s not braced!!) and she screams at everyone to leave.
This prompts a fight between Jennifer and Javier where she’s like, “I’m not enough and you want to have kids but you can never fuck me” then there’s a weirdly violent rape scene? He doesn’t rape her and it’s not violent violent but he’s kind of raping her then she ends up liking it and changes to be into it. (Sidenote: this was a scene where I was like, “Do I trust any men to tell stories? Not really” cause I don’t think you’ll find a movie with one of those scenes that’s directed by a woman but male directed movies are just littered with them).
Then she wakes up bathed in light and she *knows* that she’s pregnant (I think they did that cause how else were they gonna get a pregnancy test to this abandoned ass farm?? But yeah sure some women know 10 hrs after having sex they’re pregnant. The body can just tell! Legitimate rape!) and there is a BRIEF moment of happiness between them before he gets up and begins to write furiously. He keeps writing all morning and she’s like, “Well I don’t want to disturb you” then doesn’t for like 6 months until she feels the baby kick and runs to tell him and once again is eclipsed because he’s JUST finished his piece.
She reads it, and cries because it’s so beautiful but also she’s scared of losing him, which he assures her will never happen (lol, you can’t lose something you don’t have my bb). Then the phone rings and it’s his publisher (Kristen Wiig), she loves it. JLaw is like, “She’s seen it?” and he’s like, “Of course.” Then they do pregnancy stuff: buy a crib, put a rug over that blood stain on the floor where someone was murdered, knit a blanket, you know, pregnancy stuff!
Then JLaw is wearing a grecian cut cotton gown (the whole time he keeps calling her his ‘goddess,’ and also he’s a huge feminist on Twitter) and makeup for the first time and she’s cooked a huge feast and is putting it out on the dining room table to celebrate his book selling out in the first day. Then there’s a knock on the window and it’s some fans who want him to sign something and he goes out to bask in their adoration and she keeps asking him to come back inside but he keeps asking her to give him another minute. Then a woman and her child come in to use the bathroom and Jennifer’s like, “You have to get out” and the kid has an accident and she’s like, “Ok I’ll help you but then you really need to leave” then she sees that ALL these people are inside her house.
From this moment on we leave the reality that has been created/understood up until this point and the movie enters a fantastical realm. Many stages of society are enacted within the house, religious ceremony, war, sex trafficking, war, fighting, prayer, refuge, Kristen Wiig shooting someone in the head, etc. etc. Jennifer keeps trying to get out of her house and traveling through all these worlds that have seemingly just popped up-they seem like circles of hell, or different stages of revolution, or societal collapse. Sin maybe? I was thinking about what it could be a metaphor for, because it so clearly is meant to be non-literal, and I was thinking perhaps how ideas and art are co-opted for political gain/war, because the people keep justifying their misdeeds by the poem (when stealing things from the house: “everything is ours, just like the poet says”) and he’s this figurehead to them that represents some ideology that’s fueling all the chaos and damage.
It also made me think of Twitter (because that’s where my mind always is) and social media in general and boundaries- how people share parts of themselves but then others use it to invade and overrun, and how often people close to artists get wrapped up in that even though they didn’t want it/ask for it and often their private lives and details become a consumable for the public.
I also thought the house was a metaphor for something, possibly their relationship, because it had a heartbeat Jennifer kept checking on and throughout the movie it was slowly dying and at the end when she decides to leave him (after a crowd of people kill her baby), it’s dead. Also how on the nose is that for dating someone who’s broken? Rebuilding their house while you live in it? Yes.
Oh yeah, so she has the baby in the room he boarded up bc the guests broke the heart crystal from the beginning (so much symbolism!!! The english major in me is dying of happiness and wants to read/write a million analytical essays on this movie) and she keeps asking him to tell them to leave until finally he says he doesn’t want them to leave, then she won’t let him hold the baby. She falls asleep for one second and he takes it out and passes it around amongst the crowd. This baby is crowdsurfing like he’s at a NIN concert, until we hear a SICKENING crunch and JLaw loses it and rushes to get to him but he’s already dead and his body is on an alter and people are eating him. Then she goes nuts and starts stabbing people with a huge piece of glass, they turn on her and beat her while calling her a cunt until Javier comes over and stops it. He holds her and tells her they need to find it in their hearts to forgive the mob and she cries, “You killed my baby.”
Then she finds the lighter she pushed behind the dresser from before and goes down to the blood basement chamber and kicks in the furnace. While all the oil is spilling out, Javier pleads with her not to do it. She says, “You never loved me, you just loved how much I loved you” and lights everything on fire and it all burns. YES BITCH.
Javier carries her somewhere and she’s crying, “I was never enough you took everything everything from me. What hurts the most is I was never enough” and he’s like, “You could never be enough, that’s the only way I can write, that’s how it has to be.” And she’s like “Just let me go I have nothing left to give.” And he’s like, “Do you still have your love?” and she nods while crying and he reaches into her belly, which collapses into ash, and pulls out a beating thing that immediately hardens and turns black. Then he cracks it open and inside is a beautiful glass rock that he carries it to the pedestal from the beginning. Once he puts it in the whole house revives and we see a figure form on the bed who rolls over (new actress, not Jennifer Lawrence) and says, “Baby?”
!!!!!!!! Amazing amazing amazing amazing. I am grinning just remembering it. I really want to ask Darren Aronofsky who hurt him-or maybe he’s incredibly self-aware, because it seems like this movie is all about the one-sidedness of some relationships and how some people use the love of others selfishly. Ugh, it was so good and I lovedddd it. Also the song that played right after this blackout, during the credits (which also might have been the only music in the movie? Is that right? There was a techno song that played when their house turned into a hell rave but other than that I don’t think there was a soundtrack) was a slowed down cover of The End of the World by Skeeter Davis which is what’s playing on the record player on repeat when Brittany Murphy hangs herself in Girl, Interrupted and Winona Ryder goes up and finds her.
I loved this movie. It reminded me of a play in a lot of ways. Minimal characters, an emotional build that gives depth to actions that would normally seem mundane, quick turns of events that heighten situations exponentially, etc. It felt so much like a play now that I’m thinking of it. Like I said, the acting was terrific. There was so much going on beyond the words everyone was saying, there were these scenes that were so loaded-it was incredible. I mean, Michelle Pfeiffer probably has maybe thirty lines if we counted them all out but her CHARACTER was incredible.
One of the most haunting things about this is that throughout people kind of make comments about their age difference (‘Must be hard when you have a decade between you’) and the cyclical nature of the ending makes you think he’s been doing this for years and years to so many women and that’s harrowing to consider. Also lol, my favorite lesson from this movie was that a lot of men like horror movies but don’t realize that the true horror is men who are emotionally unavailable 😎
I want to watch this movie again in like a year to see how I feel about it after sitting with it for a while and like I said I also want to read a million essays of interpretations of it. I wanted to write this first though so it wouldn’t be tainted. Maybe I will go back and include comments/theories of some of the good ones.
For right now, 8/10 bloody toads, would masturbate again.