To stay actually sort of caught up, here’s today’s post! Continuing my Women Directors, which was only supposed to be a weekend but whatever, I watched American Mary. Why does this only have a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes? What is wrong with you people??
American Mary, 2012. Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska, Written by Jen & Sylvia Soska. Starring Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupa.
Oh wow, American Mary, I like you. This is a movie that takes us into a bizarre underworld of body modification and twisted characters. It’s not perfect but I thought it was pretty damn good.
The movie starts off with Mary, a broke med student, struggling to keep her cell phone turned on and her eyes open in class. In a desperate search for cash, she finds herself performing an impromptu surgery in the back of a seedy strip club. Things lead to things and she is soon a star in the underground world of body modification.
Katharine Isabelle plays Mary and she is one of my favorite parts of this movie. Smart, cool, detached when she’s performing, vulnerable behind closed doors. Sexy and bad ass. It’s a killer combo.
Get it? Killer combo? Okay, bad joke. Sorry.
This movie’s strength lies in Isabelle and the various people who come to her for help. Quirky Beatrice who has had herself made over as Betty Boop, shy Ruby who would rather be a doll than a sexualized and objectified woman, the twins who just want to be one with each other.
One of the things about watching these films made by women is seeing how they deal with how the horror genre handles the female body. In Freddy’s dead, there was no sex to speak of. Splatter Movie is in your face about it. American Mary puts it out there, lets you look, and then shows the deadly consequences of treating a female body as no more than an object.
I think where this movie falters, is in the sub-plot of Mary’s rape at the hands of one her med school professors and then her subsequent revenge. I’m glad the movie didn’t dwell on its rape/revenge aspect, the rest of it was much more compelling, but I do wonder if it really needed to be there at all. Yes, it motivates her actions later in the film but I feel like she was already headed in the direction she was headed anyway. The rape and then the following investigation seemed kind of throw away and possibly unnecessary. Maybe that’s just me?
I did like the chemistry between Isabelle and Antonio Cupa, the strip club’s manager Billy. He liked her so much! It was kind of sweet. In his sleazy, f’d up way. Billy is not a good man, he’s a thug, takes advantage of the women who work for him, and I’m pretty sure he spent half of the movie high although he could have just been really drunk. He’s also shy! Or maybe just scared. Either way, it takes him the entire movie to ask Mary out and then when he finally does, he doesn’t do it very well.
Really I just thought this was a very cool, hip movie. A weird kind of slasher where our hero is also our villain. There’s a conflict there. Watching this, we like Mary. We want to see her succeed. And get her revenge. But when she takes a scalpel to an innocent girl in the bathroom of the strip club, we can see Mary approaching a line. It becomes so easy to see how quickly the hero does become the bad guy. It may be a slippery slope, but once you’ve gone down so far there’s no coming back up.
Of course, in the end, she puts that scalpel down after making a big show for Billy’s camera, and lets the girl go with a pat on the head and a half hearted apology. “You were in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong dick in your mouth.”
I maybe would have liked a little more out of the second half of the movie, there are a couple of character moments that I feel didn’t lead anywhere, but overall I really enjoyed this one.
I’ve heard the Soska sisters’s first movie isn’t very good but I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.