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SIFF ADVANCE: A Date for Mad Mary - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF ADVANCE: A Date for Mad Mary
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

A Date for Mad Mary begins with the title character, played with subtle precision by Seána Kerslake, attempting to write her Maid of Honor speech for her best friend: "The things are need to know about Charlene are..." We hear this opening phrase several times. But it's not long before Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) proves to be such a shitty friend that kept hoping Mary would finally say, "The thing you need to know about Charlene, is... she's a cunt."

This story takes place in Ireland, by the way. This does make for some slight challenges for American audiences deciphering relatively thick accents, and it might be easier watched in a context where you can turn on closed captioning at will. I got used to it pretty quickly, although there is a point at which Charlene literally gives Mary a CD of elocution lessons, saying it should help her accent during the Maid of Honor speech. Mary, quite reasonably, counters with, "I have the same accent you do."

To say it's easy to have mixed feelings at best about Charlene is an understatement. This is one area in which director and co-writer Darren Thornton is a little unclear. Mary has such huge problems with controlling herself that she once spent six months in jail for badly injuring another girl in a street fight. She still regularly makes a scene at a nightclub where they consistently kick her out. Still, Charlene, her childhood best friend, wants her to be Maid of Honor at her wedding. But she's an insanely controlling Bridezilla about it, right down to writing the speech for her, in which she writes -- for Mary to say about her -- "You are the most generous person I know." I spent a lot of time wanting to slap Charlene.

But there is a scene in which Charlene seems meant to come across as reasonable, during an argument with Mary -- referring to what Mary put her friends and family through after the aforementioned violent incident. Mary is presented with different ways in which she really needs to take a look at herself and grow up, and this is one of them. But, Mary also has a fairly irresponsible mother, and, apparently, a narcissistic bitch of a best friend.

If all that makes A Date for Mad Mary too unpleasant, that's not quite the intent. It's just the somewhat frustrating background context in a story that is otherwise surprisingly sweet, about an emotionally volatile woman who doesn't even quite know she's gay. But, attempting to bear the responsibilities of a Maid of Honor (with the notable exception of any party the night before the wedding, which Charlene refuses -- I hate Charlene), she goes to make the down payment on the wedding photographer, Jess (Tara Lee), and very quickly forms an unlikely friendship with her. What follows is a process of gradual, organically developed self-discovery, which actually helps Mary realize what a jerk Charlene is being.

I'm tempted to say "in spite of its flaws," as I often do, but I'm not sure it's fair to say that the inclusion of a grating character like Charlene is a flaw. It's the person, Charlene, who is flawed; we all know such people, and sometimes they are still worth retaining relationships with. Charlene and Mary, fractured as their friendship currently is, were childhood friends after all, and they still mean something to each other. Mary happens also to be discovering that Jess means something to her, in very different ways -- particularly when Jess invites Mary to accompany her on another wedding gig and they stay the night at a hotel together.

Their bus ride home the next morning is very awkward, and this stage of their relationship comes off as very realistic. Mary, in particular, doesn't know how properly to process feelings she has never before experienced, and this in turn makes Jess feel awkward as well. Now they must decide what the night they just had together means, if anything. We know, of course, it means something. And the actors make it easy for us to root for them. In the end, A Date for Mad Mary is much better than it seemed it might be in the beginning. This is a movie that actively wins over its audience, and that's always a pleasant surprise.

Seána Kerslake and Tara Lee go on A DATE FOR MAD MARY.

Overall: B+
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