Male obsessing over the “purity” of women might be relevant in certain cultural/religious contexts, or within the bilious gender-wars exaggeration of a Neal LaBute or David Mamet script. But it is off-putting as a focus in Amerindie “Mary/Mary,” whose general air of innocuous twentysomething romantic comedy doesn’t justify the lead character’s growing misogyny. Slickly handled first feature for writer-helmer Joseph H. Biancaniello ends up both unpleasant and uninsightful, a combo that will make commercial placement tough to finagle.
College student Manny (Jon Bernthal) doesn’t know what he wants, and that’s causing others grief. First he sleeps with sexually freethinking best female pal Mary (Amy Drown), pulling the old morning-after fast exit and subsequent communicative shutdown. Then he finds another, seemingly less “soiled” Mary (Melissa Pamperin), but drives her crazy with his suspicions and disease phobias.
Meanwhile Manny also “infects” his close buddy Brian (Sean Carrigan) with the doubt, ruining latter’s hitherto happy live-in relationship with bewildered g.f. Kara (Sue McMahon).
Protag’s Iago-like poisoning of others’ minds could have led in any number of intriguing directions, but script doesn’t give it tangible roots in Manny’s backstory nor does it give Manny a truly villainous stature. Hence, Manny comes off as a mere jerk in sensitive-nice-guy disguise, one who’s increasingly dislikable without being especially interesting.
Perfs are OK but not enough to get past pic’s skin-deep psychologizing, which raises issues it doesn’t fully investigate. Even last-reel turn to more serious conflict brings just a couple flashes of insight. Manny’s internal “demons” are visualized as a couple of 1950s-garbed wiseguys (Ken Arnold, Joe Gaines) who materialize on occasion to whisper dubious “Dump that slut” wisdoms in his ear; this fantasy aspect, too, never gets past first base.
Lacking any real sense of place or a larger social context, feature is nonetheless decently mounted, with polished (if uninspired) tech aspects superior to the less-than-satisfying content.