Monday, February 25, 2013

American Mary

The newest effort from the twisted twins themselves, Jen and Sylvia Soska has been making the rounds at various festivals and whatnot, and has been met with lots of great reviews. Being that I'm a fan of their previous film, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I of course have been dying to see it since it was first announced. I waited and waited, but to this day it hasn't played in a theater anywhere near me. I became more and more jealous of every review I read, but the last straw was when my brother got to see the film when it played in New York. It appeared that my only option at the moment was going to be the recently released bluray from the UK. I had actually never ordered an import, but being that my primary bluray player is my PS3, and they're region free, I decided that enough was enough, and I made the order.

Mary Mason is your typical med student. She has a low paying part time job, a mountain of student loan debt, she spends a majority of her time either at school, or studying, and she has money problems. In order to stay in school, she responds to an ad on a website for exotic dancing. When she arrives for the interview, it's interrupted when one of the employees of the club (who is obviously into some extra curricular criminal activity) is brought in with an eye missing, and a gash from his face to his abdomen. After reading on her resume that Mary was in med school, the club's owner, Billy, offers her $5,000 if she can ensure that his employee doesn't die. She reluctantly agrees. 

Soon after, Mary gets a visit from a peculiar woman named Beatrice. Mary finds out that Beatress is into body modification, and has had several surgeries to make herself look like Betty Boop. Beatress also has a friend who desires an unconventional body modification procedure, and she offers to pay Mary $10,000 if she will perform the operation. Again, the allure of the money is too much for her to pass up, and she does the surgery. She also begins to learn a little more about body modification, which up until this point, she had never heard of.

Meanwhile, Mary has been excelling at school, interning at a local hospital. She gets invited to an exclusive party for the doctors and surgeons from the hospital, including her professor, Doctor Grant, whom Mary has a bit of a crush on. It's at this point that the film gets much darker in tone. Mary is drugged and raped by Dr. Grant at the party. The next morning, she returns home, drops out of school, and offers Billy money to find Grant and bring him to her. Mary has decided to embrace her role as an underground body modification surgeon, and she plans to hone her skills using Grant for practice. As Mary begins to make a name for herself in the mod community, her clientele increases, as does her notoriety. Eventually the police start poking around, asking her questions about Doctor Grant's disappearance. Mary is initially able to fend them off, but will she be able to stay off their radar completely? And how far is she willing to go to ensure that Grant gets what he deserves?

So, American Mary was, in a word, amazing. Even if you hated Dead Hooker in a Trunk, this movie is worth a watch. Don't judge the Soska's solely by their first film. They are clearly talented writers/directors, and American Mary is well done from start to finish. I've read in several places that it's been well received in the mod community, and I've also read that it wasn't. I don't know enough about body modification to speak on the subject, but I do work in surgery, and it's clear the twins did their homework in at least that regard. It was kind of cool to geek out about seeing instruments in the movie that I use everyday at work.

As for everything else, it all just works. The music is great, the actors all turn in great performances, the story is paced well, dialog is believable, and the camera work is excellent. Katharine Isabelle plays Mary, and I sincerely hope this movie is her resurgence, as she is brilliant. Most of us fell in love with her when we first saw Ginger Snaps. Since then, she hasn't done much notable, other than Freddy vs Jason, and some television stuff. As of right now though, she's once again in the spotlight (where I personally think she fully belongs) and I hope she stays there. The other notable performance was from Tristan Risk, as Beatress. From the very first time she appeared on screen, I was completely glued to her. Her Betty Boop voice, the manner in which she speaks, the way she moves, her performance was just incredible. Beatress was completely harmless, but at the same time just creeped me the fuck out.

One last note I wanted to touch on before I wrap this up. I've seen it said that people only like Jen and Sylvia because they're "twins who are hot". Well, let me say that for some people that may be true. However, in no way, shape, form, or fashion do I live in some internet fantasy land where I think either of them are going to fly down to the Batcave from Canada and make me the filling in a Soska sandwich just because I buy their dvd's and tell them how much I like them. I remember wanting to see Dead Hooker in a Trunk because well, with a name like that, of COURSE I want to see it. I had no idea who the twins were, or what they looked like. It was from a post I made about wanting to see the movie, that they contacted me and offered to send me a copy. THAT is why I think so highly of them, because they were willing to go out of their way to make sure I got to see their film after I expressed interest. Naturally, I still have that copy, which they sent to me autographed for absolutely free, and I also bought the U.S. release of Dead Hooker from IFC Midnight. So, while some people may be into them because they're attractive females, believe me, when I write about how talented they are, and how much I love their work, it's because of the work itself.

Having said all that, American Mary is an incredibly good film. It's a beautifully dark homage to European style cinema, and a total departure from the Soska's previous love letter to Grindhouse, Dead Hooker in a Trunk. It's an accomplishment that the twisted twins should be eternally proud of, and proof that they are more than capable filmmakers with a bright future ahead of them.

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