a Primal Root review
I gotta say, I look back on my high school years somewhat fondly. Enough time has rolled by now that I can selectively choose the times and moments I care to look back upon with the bittersweet twinge of nostalgia tugging at my steadily aging, withering, heart strings and marvel at how fleeting those four years of my time here in this world were. Still, upon closer inspection, high school was a pretty tricky, nasty little piece of the human experience. Sure, I had it pretty well , but everyone had their hangups and hurts, no matter how confident they came across. It all seemed to mean so much and it felt like everything was at stake. It’s a time when the politics of social interaction are driven home and our lifelong insecurities are so often set in stone. It’s a time of growth, cruelty and burgeoning sexuality. Let’s face it, sometimes it was like a fresh slice of Hell.
This is just where “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” drops us in the middle of, Teen Angst Armageddon time as Amber Heard’s Mandy Lane walks through the halls of her high school and every male eyeball present happens to find it’s gaze dropping upon her blossoming bosom or her noticeably curvaceous posteriors. In the seething cauldron of pubescent hormonal Hell, known as high school, it is to be expected. But as the film plays out, these glances prove to be the tip of an iceberg leading to the flick’s M.O.
See, every inhabitant of this high school possessing a cock and set of balls are in a strange, deep seeded lust for Mandy Lane. According to rumor, she’s still a virgin, (which is some kind of mythic wonder for high school boys. He who deflowers has the power? I dunno, the logic of cherry popping being a big deal, some transcendent moment, has always baffled me) and has become a pro at haulting the advances of the nonstop barrage of young bucks just aching to stick their drippy teenage jerky basters down her unclaimed love tunnel. It’s actually quite disturbing watching guy after guy try coaxing and pressuring her into having sex with them. “You don’t know how hot you are.” and ” We’re all trying to get you.” are some of the incredibly tactful lines used by these walking hard-ons in the hopes of being “the first.” When their advances are not met with submission with a smile, many of these fellows respond with frustrated anger and lash out. Yeah, I wonder why this young woman’s not interested?
During an opening scene at a high school pool party we get to experience such a moment close up and personal as a bleach blonde jock puts the moves on Mandy Lane before being interrupted by Mandy’s best dude friend, Emmet (Michael Welch). Before you can say, “I am a Golden God” Emmet has this jockular dickhead convinced that the only was to win Mandy Lane’s heart is to jump off the roof of the house and into the pool. Jocko Homo declares his love for Mandy from the roof and jumps to his death as his skull smashes open on the edge of the pool. I think this was supposed to be horrifying, but it made me laugh out loud. Sorry, something about how the moment was executed had tickled my sick little funny bone. This is possibly the movie’s inciting incident, as we fast forward to 9 months later and it appears Emmet and Mandy Lane are no longer on speaking terms.
Think 9 months has changed anything? Hell no, all the boys are still looking to lay a coat of Mandy’s virgin blood all over their pussy pokers. This lusting even inspires a rare slasher film soliloquy from one of the boys as he watches her jog around the schools track…
“There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure. Since the dawn of junior year men have tried to possess her, and to date all have failed. Some have even died in their reckless pursuit of this angel.”
In fact, this young stoner, by the name of Red (Aaron Himelstein), has invited Mandy and group of fellow classmates out to his Father’s ranch for a weekend of acting like idiots, doing drugs, and high pressuring every woman in sight into having sex with them. Believe it, or not, Mandy Lane agrees to go along with these horny teen dogs out for blood.
The first quarter of “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” has an unrelentingly dark, mean spirited tone that bodes well for the rest of the picture as we witness the teens fervently cutting one another down as a means of making themselves feel superior. There’s a teenage power struggle going on as the girls claim one another are fat, that someone has far too much pubic hair and the the fragile male ego is bruised when one man is singled out as having the smallest dick at the table during a game of truth or dare. As fascinating as all this is, after a short while it all just feels like a retread of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter with a slightly dull emo edge to it. Before long, the teens are butchered one by one in some grisly ways, but none too shocking, and the film falls into the typical slasher conventions where there are no real surprises or shocks to be found. And the film’s slasher, who is obvious from the get-go, is revealed at nearly the halfway point and makes a pretty lackluster boogeyman.
By the end, when the final twist is revealed and a confrontation in a mass grave filled the corpses of over a dozen diseased, rotting, heads of cattle I was totally dumbstruck and left wondering what the character motivations were to begin with. Just what in the Hell was happening during the flick’s runtime that I missed? By not establishing any of this characterization in the previous two acts, this revelation comes totally out of left field and never quite feels justified. But, perhaps if you look at the people who are now dead, the justification speaks for itself…in an angst high school teen sort of way.
Throughout the film, Mandy Lane keeps a pretty cool, detached demeanor without a whole lot of humanity. Mandy is curvy, gorgeous, and innocent but never gets fully fleshed out as a character, but that might be entirely the point, as the male and female characters alike only see her as a sexual conquest, and not quite human at all. Through it all, everyone wants a piece of the elusive, untouched, mysterious Mandy Lane and by the film’s end, we don’t get to have her either.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” was the directorial debut of Jonathan Levine, who would go on to direct the damn fine film “50/50″ and that zombie romantic comedy I just cannot bring myself to watch, “Warm Bodies”, this plus the film’s long delayed release has garnered “Mandy Lane” a bit of a cult fascination. Watching “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” I can see it having a much bigger impact in 2006, not only in theaters, but with me personally. It feels a little off balanced and falls short in it’s story telling. That being said, there are some fun performances, a handful of good deaths, ONE pair of breasts, and one excellent final fight in a mud hole filled with rotten cows. It’s worth checking out, just don’t expect Mandy Lane to give it all up that easy. All well intention and good effort at creating a genre deconstructing slasher flick that concentrate a considerable amount of it’s time and effort focusing on teenage gender roles and individual insecurities. Again, much like high school itself, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is small potatoes.
I’m giving “Mandy Lane” TWO and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.