Darren Aronofsky is still hard at work explaining what mother! means in one press interview after another. It’s a biblical allegory! No, it’s about the environment! Wait, no, it’s actually about the creative male ego. (Er, but also Rachel Weisz.) But just as there’s no definitive way to interpret the bonkers Jennifer Lawrence-led nightmare, there’s no singular consensus of the film among audiences and critics. The divisive film earned itself the dreaded F CinemaScore, a rating derived from polling audiences after seeing the film on opening night. But Aronofsky doesn’t care, actually, he welcomes the big fat F.

The filmmaker stopped by KPCC’s The Frame (h/t The Playlist) to chat about the film. As soon as the host mentioned the already-infamous CinemaScore, Aronofsky responded with a loud celebratory “We got an F! Yes!” Maybe he was being ironic? Not so much. He went on to say he views the dismal rating as a badge of honor, and frankly, he can’t imagine audiences not giving mother! an F. Here’s his full response:

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.

It’s scary when you talk to the people who are studying this and thinking about this and then you have other people who basically believe in the power of a iPhone that they can communicate to 35 million people in a blink of an eye, yet they don’t believe in science in other ways. You know, which is as proven as gravity at this point, really. It has as many people believe in it as believe in gravity. And it scares me and it’s time to start screaming. So I wanted to howl. And this was my howl. And some people are not going to want to listen to it. That’s cool.

It’s not really a surprise that Aronofsky, a filmmaker who loves to challenge audiences, embraced the rating. It’s worth noting that CinemaScores are less a gauge of a film’s quality and more so how audiences think a film holds up to its marketing. Aronofsky is well aware that his movie was promoted as more of a psychological thriller than the utterly ludicrous punch in the nose that it is. And it’s certainly refreshing to see him welcome the polarized response and stand by his ambitious project. Paramount has done the same lately, releasing a statement that defended their movie as the type of bold, original filmmaking critics complain studios never release these days. And earlier this week, the studio also embraced the divisive reactions in the latest mother! TV spot.

But marketing tactics aside, Aronofsky knows that not everyone is down with his movie’s message – wait, what is this movie’s message again? As the second portion of his response shows, jumping from explanations of his own artistic struggle to technology and science then back to vague allusions to “what’s going on now” – that could literally mean a hundred things – I’m more convinced Aronofsky isn’t quite sure what his film’s about, or at least, the variety of things it's come to mean for audiences. Yeah, yeah, he’s generally saying it’s a reflection of the ugly state of our contemporary world, but you could very well argue (as I did in my review of mother!) that the film’s messy myriad of meanings don’t all coalesce by the end. No matter how you feel about mother! though, or whether you “got” it, we all left the theater with one key takeaway: brace your goddamn sinks.

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