Mary is a very practical person, and for the most part, seems to have very little in the way of moral inhibitions. This leads her to do ever-increasingly extreme things to serve her immediate needs; and it isn’t until she is practically drowning in blood that she finally asks, ‘is this wrong?’
Is is wrong to give people the body modifications they desire, regardless of how significant or self-damaging they may be? Of course, a person’s body is theirs to do with as they please; but what if they aren’t in their right mind when they ask? Is Mary helping people, or preying on the weak?
For the most part, the former seems to be the case. Tongue splitting and horn implants are harmless, and have no ill lasting effects on the recipient. But the same can’t be said for a de-sexing; especially when the patient is clearly suffering from self-esteem issues. Is Mary a monster for taking the job? Is she a bartender giving a drink to an alcoholic, and then handing him his car keys?
Mary is a cold person. At one point in the film, Mary is asked to go into a waiting room and tell a family some bad news about their patriarch. She does this without hesitation, then walks out, nary a hint of emotion on her face. Even when her life falls apart after a horrible incident, and she loses the destiny she’s been working her entire life to reach, she simply switches tracks and carries on, undeterred (she actually reminded me of the Hammer Horror version of Frankenstein, who film after film changes his name and finds a new place to continue his research).
Mary, despite being the film’s ‘monster,’ only acts with malice once (there is one other time she does an objectively bad thing; but she was acting in the moment, without forethought); and it is towards a person that deserves it. Here, too, she doesn’t express her emotions in a traditional way. She doesn’t scream, or laugh, or cry. She simply acts. In a way, she’s kind of like a talkative Michael Myers. A monster who’s actions are unexplained is inherently unpredictable, and thus scarier.
That’s not to say that she isn’t affected. She simply doesn’t show her emotions to others. There’s a lovely shot with a single tear after ‘the incident’ that works incredibly well to show what she is hiding within. Of course, once she’s in the privacy of her apartment, everything comes out.
Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) plays Mary. During a panel at Fan Expo, American Mary‘s directors, Jen and Sylvia Soska, told the story of Isabelle’s wardrobe fitting for the lingerie she wears to her strip club audition. The wardrobe woman called them up, saying that Isabelle was insisting on seeing them right away, so they ran over, worried that she would quit on them or something. Instead, Isabelle just wanted to show them how ‘f#$king hot’ she looked (it’s true, by the way).
Speaking of the Soska twins, they have a cameo in the movie. It’s given too much prominence and build-up, especially since it doesn’t really go anywhere. It probably would have been better to scale it back and throw it in the montage of patients.
Of all the things Mary does in the film; the bad, the bad but justified, and the good (with reservations), it’s the good that leads her to the film’s climax. In way, it addresses the question of whether or not it’s okay to perform major surgeries on an emotionally damaged person, but by that point in the film, we’ve moved far beyond the question. The climax is derived from something that happens in the first fifteen minutes; effectively making everything in between meaningless. It’s a definitive ending, but I would have preferred something that tied together more of the film.
Mary is a compelling and beautifully realized character, and the Soska twins have crafted a stylish, sexy, and evocative world around her. American Mary could use use some modification to it’s final act, but over all, the good far outweighs the bad.