A Date for Mad Mary – movie reviewby Peter Calder
Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read
In this beautifully crafted film, an ex-con needs to find a partner for a wedding.
In the opening sequence, she’s just out of prison for an unspecified crime (we soon guess it has something to do with her fondness for fighting, which features in YouTube clips with titles such as “Mad Mary Kicks Off”), and it’s to the movie’s credit that we are given the real explanation quietly, in a short scene made more viscerally powerful for its wordlessness.
Anyway, the ungovernably angry Mary is due to be maid of honour at the wedding of her best friend, Charlene, a brittle, self-obsessed beauty who believes in writing the bridal party’s speeches for them. The film’s central conceit (it is adapted from 10 Dates with Mad Mary, a 2010 stage monologue, written and performed by Yasmine Akram) is that she has to find a plus-one to take to the event.
Traces of the film’s stage roots remain in the sparing use of voiceover, but Darren Thornton, who directed the original and co-wrote the meticulous screenplay with his brother Colin, has opened it up from a bleakly profane comedy to the most unpredictable love story, though it would be a crime to let slip more details of that subplot.
Killer lines remain – a standout is Mary’s cider-swilling nan, who dismisses the young woman’s dateability with the line “A f---ing sniper wouldn’t take you out” – but the film, a bit like Mary, never pleads for our attention. It has a deadpan humour about it and it does farce when it’s needed, but Kerslake’s Mary conjures up a character of complexity and texture.
Rich in a sense of place (it was made in rain-soaked Drogheda, between Dublin and the border), A Date for Mad Mary is beautifully crafted, laying small narrative time bombs that go off at crucial moments and constantly subverting the genre’s conventions. There’s a reassuring authenticity about every scene, right to the last perfect moment.
IN CINEMAS NOW
This article was first published in the July 15, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
Julien Albe and Matthieu Gosset's new venture Ambler has been a long time coming.Read more
The rape and murder of a young comedian in Melbourne this week sparked outrage - fuelled by police telling women to "stay safe".Read more
If Jacinda Ardern was hoping for an easy slide into maternity leave, her main coalition partner wasn't helping her.Read more
As many as 100,000 New Zealanders, many of them undiagnosed, are afflicted by coeliac disease.Read more
The PM can happily go off on maternity leave knowing there is a cast of colourful and capable people to fill the gap — most notably Winston Peters.Read more
This year marks a century since a flu pandemic killed 9000 NZers. Three more such plagues have swept the world since then – and another is inevitable.Read more