Friday, September 6, 2013

Worth the seven-year wait: Jonathan Levine's ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE

And now, at last, they can! Love Mandy Lane. The boys, I mean. And TrustMovies is pretty certain that they will. Certainly they'll love the character, very nicely played by a young Amber Heard in Jonathan Levine's first full-length film, made in 2006 but only now available -- today! -- on VOD with a theatrical opening scheduled for October. Shown at various festivals and theatrically in Great Britain, this film has had a very odd history where U.S. viewers are concerned (it's been on my Netflix SAVED list for years now). First owned by The Weinstein Company, rights were sold to Senator Entertainment, which then promptly went out of business, and the movie has remained in limbo until now, when it is reappearing via -- surprise! -- Weinstein's RADiUS/TWC.

Mr. Levine, shown at right (I think this shot was taken during the making of All the Boys...) has gone on to do more very good work: to write and direct The Wackness, adapt and direct Warm Bodies and just direct (as he did Mandy Lane) 50/50. Ah, but that first, unseen movie. It just lingered there in our minds (as I'm sure it did in his own). When would we finally see it? I must tell you, in all honesty, that ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is a slasher movie, pure and relatively simple, so expectations ought not to placed too high.

On the other hand, this a pretty good model of the genre. Despite the intervening years and all the slashing that has occurred therein, age hath not withered nor custom staled the variety of killings and their modes, along with the oddly appealing (and unappealing) characters that Mr. Levine brings to the table -- beginning with the near-incandescent, highly-sexual-because-she's-so-damned-aloof Mandy Lane in the performance given by Ms Heard (above). Yum. The actress is a delight to watch and literally carries the movie on the strength of her quiet, full-because-hidden and rich-with-ambiguities interpretation.

All of this leads to the film's surprising finale, which makes very good sense, too. But that's enough of that. Let's talk about the story, which has Mandy and her best friend, the much-bullied Emmet (Michael Welch), on one side of the fence, and those crass "popular" and bullying kids on the other. Mandy is actually courted by them -- the boys because she's simply gorgeous, the girls be-cause the boys all want her -- but she keeps her discreet distance.

Then, when she's invited to go away with five of them for the weekend, it appears that she might finally oblige. Is this a set-up for a good slasher movie? Of course. The film actually begins with a terrific lead-in to the initial demise. Here, the boy who has bullied poor Emmet, and is now hosting a party to which Emmet & Mandy turn up, takes quite a dive.

Even as early out as this first film, Mr. Levine had the good sense not to rub our noses in blood-and-guts too firmly. Oh, they're there, all right, but not always when we most expect them. And some of the camerawork is startlingly graceful and beautiful (above) -- even in the midst of the killing.

The filmmaker is a fan of surprise, as well as other genre tropes. And though we learn just who the killer is around the mid-way point, not to worry. There is indeed more surprise to come. (Above are shown Aaron Himelstein, center, flanked by Edwin Hodge, right, and Luke Grimes.)

Levine, working from a screenplay by Jacob Foreman, gets the right kind of performances from the rest of his cast that allow us to alternately despise and sort-of like them. All of Ms Heard's co-stars are well-chosen and deliver the goods, including Whitney Able (above, right) and Anson Mount (bleeding, below)

In any event, that cast proves, as is usually the case in slasher movies, perfectly dispensable. Except of course for -- ah, yes -- our own, fabled Mandy Lane...

The movie -- from RADiUS/TWC and running 90 minutes -- hits VOD today, then opens theatrically on October 11. Given the film's history, I'd suggest seeing it before anyone else goes bankrupt and those "rights" disappear all over again...

No comments: