Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” is a film that will provoke a wide range of responses. I predict that reactions to “Mommy” will run the gamut from ecstasy to exhaustion and all the way back again. Dolan’s latest is exuberant, unabashedly sincere moviemaking, heavily indebted to stylists like Pedro Almodovar and Danny Boyle, and though it’s sometimes a trying watch, it’s certainly one of the more emotionally expensive cinematic experiences of the year. Our own Jessica Kiang dug it (here’s her A- review), and while I myself have my reservations, it’s impossible to walk away from the film without feeling like you’ve witnessed… something.
This bracing psychocomedic reverie about a violent, fucked-up teen and the mother who drags him kicking and screaming through life, is itself a spiky, unpredictable grab bag of narrative tricks. But the fact is that Dolan, at 25, has more full-length features under his belt than Orson Welles did at that age, and that in and of itself is a formidable feat. Before “Mommy” extends to a limited theatrical release this Friday, we urge you to check out this new Q&A, where the French-Quebecois actor/director sits down with Eugene Hernandez of the Lincoln Center Film Society to discuss his own unique take on the creative process and the inspiration behind his newest film.
What’s almost as remarkable as Dolan’s frighteningly prolific pace is the fact that four of the five films he’s directed have now played at Cannes. “Mommy” took home the Jury Prize at the festival this past year, along with Jean-Luc Godard’s widely-praised “Goodbye to Language 3D,” and while Dolan’s brash, frank cinematic language may put off some American filmgoers who aren’t as accustomed to a certain kind of warts-and-all storytelling, it’s clear from listening to the man speak that he truly cares. About film, about future projects, and, most importantly, about his characters. In the Q&A, which you can listen to below, Dolan discusses the loose motifs that carried over from his earlier film, “I Killed My Mother,” into “Mommy,” the bottomless well of inspiration he finds in maternal figures, why he thinks the film’s teenage protagonist, Steve, is insane, and how he got over the hump of slow-motion (which figures in a few of the film’s key shots) being an “annoying” stylistic tic. He’s an eloquent, funny fellow, but what’s more impressive is the young director’s almost feverish enthusiasm for his craft. I may have had mixed feelings on “Mommy” as an experience, but I admire Dolan’s chutzpah and restless energy, and his take on the film made me want to watch it again.
Another one of the more distinctive elements of “Mommy” is its bracingly sentimental, heart-on-your-sleeve soundtrack. In his selection, Dolan and company showcase a veritable treasure trove of “hey, remember that” joints from the golden era of ’90s pop: everything from Dido to Eiffel 65’s immortally shitty “Blue” (he even manages to successfully use Oasis’ “Wonderwall” in a mostly non-ironic way during a pivotal scene). But lest you think it’s all Lilith Fair jams and drunk Gallagher brother ballads, Dolan throws in cuts by Andrea Bocelli, indie chameleon Beck, and newer pop acts like Lana Del Rey and OneRepublic to mix things up. It’s an intriguing blend of tunes that keeps the vibe of the film frenzied and high-spirited… and it’s nothing if not wildly eclectic. You can check out the entire playlist, through Spotify, below.
“Mommy” opens in limited release this Friday, January 23rd.