Frankie is a troubled African American go-go dancer in the 70s who begins a mental struggle when she repeatedly forgets large chunks of her life. She finds a crossword filled out in childish handwriting and an expensive designer dress in her wardrobe she doesn't remember purchasing among the various confusing clues suggesting there's something wrong. She is suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID), more commonly known as multiple personality disorder, in which she possesses two alter-egos. One of them is Genius, a smart young child, while the other is the unashamedly racist Alice who appears to be a white woman with a Southern American accent. Unable to link these personalities together herself, the people around her - from friends and family to conquests and the authorities - are becoming desperately confused with her unpredictable behaviour and she is referred to a doctor who is determined to bring her out of her debilitating ordeal.
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With a gleefully revolting tone, this Canadian thriller is a strange combination of sleekly beautiful visuals and a grotesque plot involving murder and torture. Fans of grisly black humour will love it, although the plot doesn't quite come together as various elements of the story are left hanging along the way. But it's notable for its exploration of the body-modification subculture, and for putting a female into the lead role as a woman who exacts horrible revenge on the men who abuse her.
The Mary of the title is a gifted surgical student (Isabelle) who is struggling to pay her bills, so decides to take a job in a strip club (it helps that she's seriously fit). But during her interview with the owner Billy (Cupo), she is asked to do some illicit surgery in a back room. And when word gets out, a dancer (Risk) hires her to perform a bit of extreme body modification. Mary's reputation quickly spreads around this fetish subculture, and her financial worries are over. This also gives her an idea about how to get revenge against her vile, sexist medical school professors (Lovgren and St Thomas).
For such a grisly story, the film shies away from most of the graphic detail, only giving us tantalising hints about the various operations Mary performs to alter people's bodies in rather freaky ways. So the mere idea of what she's doing is enough to make our stomachs turn. Strangely, the directors (who appear in the film as body-modified twins) also shy away from any real display of drama or sex, leaving key sequences feeling incomplete and intriguing characters, situations and storylines unresolved. This approach adds to the overall mystery but leaves gaping plot holes throughout the movie.
Continue reading: American Mary Review
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