American Mary 2012


The latest in an increasingly growing sub-genre of disenfranchised-young-women-who-chop-people-up, this follows the likes of May, Alyce and Excision and I have to say I was really looking forward to this. However it barely hangs together as a story, and as well made as it is, it feels as remote and uninvolving as the main character becomes.

Katharine Isabelle (from great werewolf movie Ginger Snaps) stars as Mary, studying medicine in Vancouver with dreams of becoming a top surgeon. However she is also incredibly broke and can barely make ends meet. Deciding to get a job as a stripper, her initial interview is disrupted when the club owner has a sudden need for on the spot surgery for one of his victims. Mary discovers that there is a better way to make a quick buck, and this event leads her towards some stranger clients, unable to have the kind of wacky body modification they desire in the legal medical system. Meanwhile, the surgeons at her University have different plans for Mary…

The film looks great, it is beautifully underlit, giving Vancouver’s underbelly a lovely sense of a city secretly alive only at night. We also meet some incredibly odd characters, some of which seem genuinely weird, including the twin directors who make an appearence as customers for Mary desperate to have some bonkers alterations. However, almost nothing is done with any of these oddballs. The twins have major surgery, but other than fleeting glimpses of the sketch of what they want to look like, we don’t get to see the result. The most interesting character, Ruby, who wants all her bits lobbed off and smoothed over like a Barbie doll, disappears for most of the film. We have a modified girl whose been altered to look like a freakish Betty Boo who pops up more often, however her performance is so stylised that (and I realise this sounds stupid saying this) she never comes across as a real person. In fact, it seems all the performances have been directed to act in this overly mannered way. No one comes across as real or believable, their deliveries are more like the performance you get from re-dubbed Manga movies. Isabelle, whose character is meant to become more remote and unfeeling as the film progresses, seems to be pretty inhuman right from the word go. Only a small, low key and symapthetic performance from Mary’s bouncer has any emotional impact.

Furthermore, there’s no drive to the story. It might be a bit of a rape revenge drama but the rape is completely underplayed for the horrific event it is (I don’t want to see it, I just want it’s victim to look and act a little more than pretty and distracted) and the revenge happens about two scenes later. It might be about someones decent into depravity, but it’s not depraved enough, or at least you barely see any of the work Mary is doing. It could even be a fuck-the-story we’re going wildly off the rails here to mess you up kind of tale, but even then it’s slow, episodic pace doesn’t give you enough madness to get your teeth into.

So what we’re left with is a pretty but directionless tale about illegal plastic surgery, and, unlike one character’s split-dow-the-middle tongue, its kind of pointless.



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