A couple of years ago I made the bizarre and sudden decision at 11:00 PM to head to the nearest Best Buy to attend the midnight launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I don’t really know what possessed me to do it, but it was certainly the last midnight launch I’ll be attending. By the time I rolled back home at 1:30 AM, I played for a half hour, fell asleep and then woke up when stores were open and I could buy the game anywhere.
There is a point to this I swear, stick with me here.
Ahead of me in the line was a dude who had gone further with the body modifications than I had ever seen with another human being. This guy had multiple piercings in his eyebrows, ears, nose, lips, cheeks, chin (ok basically everywhere on his face), not to mention those giant ear lobe hoops that make your lobe all gigantic and crazy looking, he had studs under his forehead that gave the impression of horns, and just basically every form of body anything that you can imagine. Now the reason I bring this up is that I remember looking at this guy and thinking “Wow, I bet the process for getting some of those in there is pretty disgusting.” Well thanks to American Mary I can confirm that yep, pretty fucking disgusting indeed.
Mary (Katherine Isabelle) is in school to be a surgeon where her teacher is encouraging in the most asshole way I think a person ever could be. “Don’t be such a fuck-up! You seem to have talent but you’re a fucked up bitch!” That sort of thing. The sort of thing I don’t know if a real world teacher could ever get away with doing. She is good at what she does but since she’s a student, she’s broke as shit, hardly even able to pay her cell phone bell let alone rent or anything else.
She applies for a no-sex stripping job where she brings a resume much to the amusement of the club’s owner. Turns out her timing is amazing however as her surgery skills are immediately needed to fix-up a guy in a back room who has been tortured. They offer her a ton of cash so she does it. It reminds me a lot of that David Duchovny movie Playing God. I think. That movie was about a surgeon right? I’d look it up to be sure but eh, no time.
Anyway it’s at this point the movie reveals how truly bizarre it’s going to be. Another employee from the club shows up at Mary’s apartment and asks for help. A friend of hers wants some surgery done and she is willing to pay Mary $5000 cash to perform it. Oh yeah, the girl making this request has spent thousands of dollars to surgically alter herself to look like Betty Boop. And the girl requesting the surgery wants to have her nipples and labia removed so she more closely resembles a doll. Yep, THAT’S the kind of movie that we’re dealing with here. So now you’re probably thinking “Well they don’t actually show the surgeries do they?” Ooooooo but they do. If you are not a fan of close-up shots of nipples being surgically removed then this might be one to avoid. And if that is indeed your thing, congrats they finally made the movie you have been waiting for weirdo!
The world of underground body modification surgery is certainly an untapped movie subject so it’s interesting to see it here. If you’re like me and it gives you the willies, you are definitely going to have some trouble getting through this because they don’t shy away from the details. Presumably a lot of the actors have actually undergone these surgeries as the people with split tongues looked damn real. Yep, more than one person has their tongue split down the middle like a damn snake. I seriously felt uneasy even writing that sentence so imagine having to actually witness it. This is definitely not a movie for everyone.
Isabelle is great as Mary and it was nice to see her in a lead role as I don’t believe I’ve even seen her in a movie since Freddy vs. Jason back in like 2003. The character goes from being awkward and unsure, to completely confident in her abilities in a very believable fashion. She also gets to have a revenge story after a particularly nasty bit of business in the middle of the movie that I won’t spoil here. Needless to say, her revenge tactic is fucked up and well deserved.
The plot for the movie is pretty thin. It’s essentially about Mary’s rise to prominence within the modification surgery world. It’s interesting to watch these surgeries grow and grow in terms of how elaborate the procedures get (eventually she is swapping out full appendages between two people), but there isn’t a whole lot else going on. The movie definitely feels a little meandering at points. There’s never much tension or suspense, except in the sense of “oooooo shit I really hope they aren’t about to show this surgery they’re talking about.” There’s never any concern that a surgery will be botched or something will go wrong with a patient, as it’s established early on that Mary is the absolute master at this. There is a subplot involving a police detective who is sort of investigating her, but it’s pushed pretty far into the background and is of little consequence. I also found the ending to be far too sudden, with everything wrapped up incredibly quickly.
American Mary is an interesting watch for its subject matter and a solid lead performance but there’s not a whole lot else going on here. At the very least it’s a unique movie, but it’s often not a particularly engaging one. Mild recommendation if you want to see some shit you’ve never seen in a movie before, but that’s about it.