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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Cast:
Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas
Writing Credits:
Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Tagline:
Appearances Are Everything.

Synopsis:
The story follows medical student, Mary Mason, as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted with the surgical world she once admired. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the world of underground surgeries which ends up leaving more marks on her than her so called 'freakish' clientele.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 6/18/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Jen and Sylvia Soska and Actors Katharine Isabelle and Tristan Risk
• “The Making of American Mary” Featurette
• Previews and Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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American Mary (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 18, 2013)

Although I can think of many brothers who direct films together, I can come up with no such list of movie-making sisters - or I couldn’t conjure any examples until 2012’s American Mary landed on my doorstep. Written/directed by twins Jen and Sylvia Soska, the flick introduces us to Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle), a brilliant med student wbo wants to be a surgeon.

However, Mary hits snarls, partly due to an inability to pay for school. To raise funds, she applies for a job at a “gentleman’s club”, but in the middle of her interview, her prospective boss Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo) gets called away to deal with a situation. An employee has been severely injured, so Billy offers Mary $5000 if she’ll operate on the victim.

Desperate for cash, Mary does so, but the circumstance leaves her disturbed, and that feeling doesn’t change when stripper Beatress Johnson (Tristan Risk) winds up on her door. Beatress pursues multiple cosmetic surgeries to resemble Betty Boop, and she offers Mary $10,000 if she’ll operate on Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg), a fashion designer who strives to look like a “living doll”.

What does the surgery entail? The removal of Ruby’s various “girl parts” so she’ll be just as asexual as a plastic Barbie. Mary goes along with this and slowly finds herself drawn into the “extreme body modification community”, a group of folks who pursue radical cosmetic surgery. Increasingly disenchanted with the misogynists she meets in medicine, Mary delves deeper into the dark underworld now open to her.

There’s something to be said for the feminist revenge fantasy, and even though I lack the requisite distribution of chromosomes to fully invest in these tales, I can find potential value in them. Regardless of gender involved, stories such as this can allow the viewer an outlet to see misdeeds punished in socially inappropriate ways.

Unlike something such as Girls Against Boys, however, Mary doesn’t spend a ton of time with its revenge motif. While it becomes part of the plot, that theme doesn’t dominate, as Mary prefers to devote much of its time to the basic creepiness of the body modification culture in which Mary involves herself.

Those elements wind up as the most effective, as Mary conveys a dark, unsettling experience – possibly more unnerving that it desires, actually. I sense the Soska intend much of the film as a black comedy, and some of that comes through at times. However, the material just becomes too ugly and disgusting for much amusement to result; for better or for worse, the movie left me semi-nauseous much of the time.

So I can say that the Soskas can convey tone but Mary doesn’t display a same level of talent when it comes to story-telling or character development. Both become handicaps and cause the movie to work less well than I’d like.

In terms of narrative, Mary lacks much of one. It does attempt a through-line as we see Mary go from med student to underground surgeon, but the film doesn’t relate these elements in an especially smooth, logical manner.

A lot of the problem relates to character areas, especially connected to Mary herself. Her arc just doesn’t seem believable, as she involves herself in her new environment with perplexing ease. Oh, the film pays minor lip service to some qualms, but just barely; for the most part, Mary turns into a warped surgeon without much real motivation.

Isabelle does offer a highlight as the lead, at least. She manifests a nice girl next door cuteness but also displays the necessary darkness. Isabelle becomes the strongest aspect of the flick.

If only Mary came with a better-told story, it could’ve been more effective. As it stands, the movie boasts some creepy moments but lacks consistency.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus C+

American Mary appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a decent presentation for SD-DVD.

Sharpness was generally fine. Wide shots could seem somewhat soft and tentative, but not to a significant degree. Overall definition looked pretty tight. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and in terms of source flaws, I noticed nothing. Edge haloes remained absent.

The movie didn’t boast a dynamic palette, as it usually stayed with quiet tones. These came across reasonably well; they didn’t impress, but they appeared acceptable. Blacks were adequate, and shadows offered fair clarity. Nothing here impressed, but the image was fine.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Mary, it seemed rather subdued. The soundfield didn’t boast a lot of involvement and it tended to appear borderline monaural at times. Music occasionally spread to the sides, and environmental elements could broaden to the side/rear channels as well. However, these components didn’t add a lot, so expect a restricted soundscape.

Audio quality seemed good. Speech came across as reasonably natural and distinctive, and I noticed no edginess or other flaws. Music showed decent clarity and definition, while effects seemed accurate and full. The track sounded acceptable but lacked much ambition.

When we go to the set’s extras, we locate an audio commentary from writers/directors Jen and Sylvia Soska and actors Katharine Isabelle and Tristan Risk. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific view of story/characters, cast and performances, visual effects and makeup, locations and production design, music, influences, and some other topics.

The twins’ personalities can get irritating and a bad speakerphone connection makes it tough to hear Isabelle at times. Nonetheless, the commentary proves to be informative enough. The participants go over an appropriate set of subjects and do so in a suffficiently efficient way to ensure that we learn a fair amount about the movie.

The Making of American Mary goes for 17 minutes, 31 seconds as it presents footage from the set. Other than a few quick notes from Risk, we don’t get interview segments; instead, we mostly look at the filmmakers at work. I’d like a little more perspective, but we get a good sense of the production. (By the way, this may be the first DVD extra ever to show a movie’s director(s) naked.)

The disc opens with ads for Saturday Morning Mystery and Inbred. We also find the trailer for Mary.

At its best, American Mary delivers a creepy atmosphere and some unnerving moments. Unfortunately, it lacks believable characters or a coherent narrative. The DVD comes with acceptable picture and audio as well as a generally positive audio commentary. Mary shows promise but doesn’t present a fully realized film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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