Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NewFest ’11: Mary Marie

They could make Tennessee Williams do a double take. Even by the standards of the most affectionate sisters, they have an unsettlingly close relationship. Yet an interloping man could come between the similarly named women in director Alexandra Roxo’s Mary Marie (trailer here), evidently a tight-knit collaboration with her co-star and co-writer-producer Alana Kearns-Green and producer Rachel Earnest (also credited with “additional direction”), which screens during the 2011 NewFest in New York.

Marie is the sexpot, Mary is the sensitive one—and how. Following the death of their mother, the two M’s return to enjoy one final summer at their childhood home before their grandfather sells it. Much to their surprise, he has arranged for Peter the handyman to spruce up the place before putting it on the market. He is immediately taken with Marie, while Mary is rather taken with him. Though she makes a show of her aloofness, Marie clearly appreciates the attention, despite the pain it causes Mary. In what often seems like the mature thing to do but always turns out to be a big bitter mistake, the three try to hang out together like pals during the long hot summer. Right, good luck with that.

Mary Marie is the strangest amalgamation of genres, blending elements of the dysfunctional indie family drama, Zalman King-style soft core with pretensions, and Southern Gothic by way of Upstate New York. That it works to the surprising extent that it does is a credit to cinematographer Magela Crosignani whose gauzy, day-dreamy look perfectly suits the characters’ feverish languor.

Frankly, it is a bit difficult to understand what either Mar could see in the scraggly handyman, but they themselves are both certainly attractive. Without question, Marry Marie is definitely the pick of this year’s NewFest for straight men. In fact, it is a rather surprising selection for the festival, considering the problematic nature of the wink-wink lesbianism viewers are lead to suspect, but here it is nonetheless.

Roxo helms with a sensitive touch, wisely underplaying the closing twist, while exhibiting particular screen presence as Marie. Though the third act gets a tad melodramatic, it is never so excessive as to risk breaking the weird sexually charged atmosphere. An intriguing (if somewhat creepy) mood piece with two fine codependent leads, Mary Marie screens this Friday (7/22) as part of this year’s NewFest.