A Date for Mad Mary
Darren Thornton’s A DATE FOR MAD MARY chronicles the attempts of Mary (Seana Kerslake), newly released after a six month stint in prison, trying desperately to find a date for her dear friend's upcoming wedding. Before you go off assuming this is some crappy rom-com, let me quell your fears - Mary's story is not nearly as shallow as it might sound on the surface, and is so much more than finding the the affections of a man.
First off, she couldn't care less if she has a date to this wedding. Her goal is the direct result of pressure and shaming on the part of the rest of the wedding party. The bride, Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) has been Mary's best friend for years, and Mary wants nothing more than to make her happy and to give her whatever perfections the special day demands. So she puts herself through the frustrating hell of the dating scene to find someone to stand at her side through the reception. It doesn't have to be real. It doesn't have to be half-way authentic. It just needs to happen.
Secondly, Mary is struggling to fit in with the life that she left behind when she went in jail. Though she was not gone for terribly long, that life has moved on, and she is trying to find a place within what remains for herself. Charlene is, of course, busy with the wedding preparations and is largely unavailable, but there seems to be more to it than that. Once inseparable, the two just aren't clicking in the way that Mary had expected, which only increases her feelings of awkward isolation.
Soon, Mary meets Jess (Tara Lee), the videographer who will be filming Char's wedding. The two immediately hit it off forming a bond that is missing from Mary's life. It seems that Jess could potentially fill the void left by Char's absence - and perhaps even more. The connection between the two builds to be more than friendship, and we see the early stages of a romance beginning to develop. With Jess, we see Mary's walls come down. Her sharp, quick to anger nature seems quelled as she slowly drops the harsh exterior and allows herself to be comfortable with another human being - as well as with herself.
As the story goes on, Mary struggles to reconcile the past that she has been missing with the future that is developing in front of her. She has outgrown her relationship with Charlene (and vice versa), but is unable to recognize it or to figure out just how to move past such an important person in her life. One chapter of her life is coming to an end, and she is unsure of why or how to make it to the next one.
A DATE FOR MAD MARY is a story of friendship and of change. As we grow, the people in our lives, though still important, begin to take on different roles than they once did, and different levels of importance. As our lives change, so too do the ways in which we occupy space in the lives of others. Our relationships develop and evolve to become something different. This film does a wonderful job of capturing that uncertainty and excitement.
Jorge Riquelme Serrano’s CHAMELEON opens with Paula (Paula Zuniga) and Paulina (Paulina Urrutia), a couple spending their final day together at their beautiful seaside home before Paulina’s career moves her to London. Having hosted a party the night before, the pair plan to enjoy their final, lazy, blissful day together in seclusion.
Before long, their quiet morning is interrupted when Gaston (Gaston Salgado) knocks on the door. A friend of a friend, the trio had a chance to get acquainted the evening prior. Gaston has returned, bearing a bottle of wine and offering some company. The women invite him in, and over the course of the afternoon, he proves to be much more than an unassuming new acquaintance. As the day wears on, Gaston’s quiet, laid-back nature slips, revealing him to be a violent predator who has now gained access to the most intimate parts of these women’s lives.
Central to the heart of the film is the relationship between the two lead characters. Though certainly affectionate and caring for one another, their relationship is far from perfect, and at times, the pair are barely able to hide their resentments. Paula dotes on Paulina, embodying an almost too perfect model of domestic bliss. Paulina, though affectionate, takes constant advantage of Paula’s care-giving nature, asking for breakfast, not helping out to clean up the house, and expecting Paula to generally take care of everything. As the wine-fueled afternoon conversation goes on, we learn that, though the two care for one another, they have both sacrificed things that they had wanted for themselves in order to maintain their relationship, and some of those sacrifices are still sources of friction. These revelations go a long way toward building the characters as complex individuals, all the while providing points of tension as the story continues to unfold.
CHAMELEON is incredibly frustrating. Serrano crafts some effective scenes early on, reaching an almost Hitchcockian level of voyeurism as we follow along behind Paula as she completes her morning chores - picking up the back yard, starting the laundry, wandering from room to room of their house - we follow along behind her while she remains lost in her own thoughts. It’s a fantastic scene, putting the audience on edge as we feel we are almost intruding on these mundane tasks and setting us up for the horrific events that will take place later in the film.
Any cinematic skill is shadowed, however, by the dark turn that the story takes in the third act. In what feels like it could only have started out as a terrible thought experiment, the “what if” scenario that serves as the film’s climax is so thoroughly horrifying and offensive that it is impossible not to let it shadow the rest of the viewing experience. The film goes from being interesting to being utterly tone-deaf. What begins as a potentially engaging thriller eventually dissolves completely in its own misogyny.