Darren Aronofsky's mother! has joined a rather exclusive club, though not the most desirable.
It's become one of only a dozen or so movies to be branded with the dreaded F Cinemascore grade by US moviegoers, the most violently negative reaction any film can have - something which has since caused Paramount Pictures to release a statement defending the film.
Which may not seem to compute with the film's critical reaction which, though incredibly divisive, was still largely mixed - it earned a 68% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Does that mean there's some great gap between critics and audience members? No, not necessarily.
Mashable has pointed to a 2016 interview in Las Vegas Review-Journal with Ed Mintz, Cinemascore's founder, in which he clarifies what those letter grades actually mean. "A’s generally are good, B’s generally are shaky, and C’s are terrible," he stated. "D’s and F’s, they shouldn’t have made the movie, or they promoted it funny and the absolute wrong crowd got into it."
Mother! is certainly guilty of that latter assertion, with Paramount's keen interest in reaching as wide an audience as possible with the film - boosted by Jennifer Lawrence's star appeal - having spectacularly backfired.
The film's certainly a horror, but the studio's push to transform it into a potential rival to the likes It involved suppressing so much of mother!'s weirder, more disturbing aspects; things cinemagoers certainly wouldn't be happy to uncover without ample warning.
Indeed, several fellow F-graded movies, like William Friedkin's Bug and Richard Kelly's The Box, were also marketed as conventional horror films despite hiding a huge dollop of weirdness within.
"The trailer paints a very strange and purposely equivocal portrait of the film and audiences who may have been expecting one type of movie-going experience got something quite different and have chosen to scold the film with a stunningly low approval rating," CinemaScore's Paul Dergarabedian told The Hollywood Reporter.
Mother! is out now.
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