Directors: Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
Stars: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas, John Emmet Tracy, Twan Holliday
Mary Mason (Isabelle) is a medical student struggling to pay the bills. After she replies to an unconventional advert she becomes involved in the underground body modification scene to make some easy money.
American Mary is a mainly a character study of a young woman who descends into a desperate world, suffers, and then transforms into a harder, meaner woman. Isabelle is fantastic in the role and is the main reason why you should see this film. I thought she does a good job of showing the emotional journey of Mary, despite there being quite an abrupt shift in her character, and it’s only because Isabelle sells it completely that it doesn’t seem totally unbelievable. Throughout the film we’re introduced to other unique characters, but they come and go so quickly we don’t really get time to form any kind of attachment to them, except perhaps Beatress, the Betty Boop wanna-be.
On that level the film succeeds, but as a story it doesn’t work. It’s scattered in a number of directions and I feel it would have been best if it had settled on one to explore fully. There’s the revenge thriller angle, there’s the exploration of the body modification scene, and there’s also a romantic subplot, but none of these feel like they’re developed as much as they could have been. As such, the film peaks about two-thirds of the way through and then collapses to a weak climax as none of the threads are strong enough to provide a strong ending. This a shame because American Mary starts off as an interesting film.
I feel like the Soska sisters had a lot they wanted to say and they put it all into this film, rather than streamlining it and focusing on one main concept. As a result I can’t fully recommend American Mary. I do think it has some things going for it, mainly the performance of Isabelle, and it does deal with different subjects than other films, but it doesn’t develop these subjects fully so it ends with a whimper.