This one is only for the adventurous moviegoer.  It helps if you're into symbolism, because there's a lot of it.  It's also painful to watch, so you have to be a little masochistic to enjoy it.  Other than that---the acting's good?

            Jennifer Lawrence, in the main role, has a lot of camera time, and most of it isn't very glamorous.  She plays a young wife to a middle-aged man, played by Javier Bardem.  (They don't even have character names in this movie, like they're the original Adam and Eve---except here, she doesn't have the corner on original sin---he's just as prideful as she is self-centered).  He's supposed to be a successful writer currently suffering from writer's block.  They've moved into the isolated house in the country with lots of creaks and groans and dripping pipes.  She's trying to paint it and fix it up while he's sitting around with not enough stimuli to create anything.  All she wants is to fluff up their love nest.  But clearly, the isolation is starting to affect even his desire for her.

            That's why, when the unexpected company arrives, he's delighted, and she's horrified.  They just keep coming.  First, a physician (Ed Harris) who coughs too much, then his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), who gets way too invasive of Jennifer's personal space, but the men, having their male bonding moments, don't seem to notice.  Then things take a nasty turn as their two grown sons enter and immediately everybody starts arguing vociferously.  Something about a will that leaves the assets in a trust where the sons have to agree on disbursements, and they can't even stand each other.  But everybody's yelling at once, so we don't know exactly what the points of debate are, but it doesn't matter, because soon the situation gets way out of hand.  Yes, Cain kills Abel and is then exiled, but at least Adam and Eve get to start over with Seth, even if banished from Eden.  Ed and Michelle seem to be unlikely candidates for that sort of do-over.

            But that's OK, because by now Jennifer is pregnant, which she's delighted about, but her husband not so much.  He seems to gain energy being around other people, particularly those who admire him and his work, and there seems to be no shortage of those, particularly now that he's finally written again.  In fact, led by his adoring publicist (Kristen Wiig, yes, the erstwhile humorist in a decidedly adverse role), the paparazzi literally invade the house and become a ravenous mob, taking liberties, helping themselves, insisting on personal souvenirs.  (“The Poet said we should share!”) The climactic scene contains much devilish Christian symbolism---eating the flesh of the sacrificial lamb by solemn communal ritual.  And this after we've already anointed with ashes.  And just as at the end of the Bible we have an apocalypse featuring an inferno, here we do, also, with the caveat of an old Aztec pagan ritual that will curdle anyone's consciousness.

            Director Darren Aronofsky already has proven his affinity for the shadow-world in “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan.”  This one is even darker, and a lot less coherent.  Call it the Purple Parable of the Paparazzi, and watch it at your own risk.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  When have your friends and family wanted more of you than you were willing to give?

2)                  When have you wanted more of friends and family than they were willing to give?

3)                  What have you sacrificed in order to achieve your goals?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DfW Film Critics Association