Movie Review: Mandy

If I had to sum up Mandy in a sentence, I wouldn't. It's a movie that needs to be seen to be believed. Mandy stars Nicholas Cage and Andrea Riseborough as a married couple living idyllically in a remote cabin in the mountains whose lives are upended by a megalomaniacal, evangelical cult leader played by Linus Roache.

From the first time this film is bathed in red light like it was left to soak in blood, you will know if this film is for you or not. This film takes risks and gives little as far as answers. You're meant to follow the flow of the story as it happens, to take things as they come and to just let go of reality. Mandy is a trip of epic proportions.

With the saturation of colors, the ethereal, punctuated soundtrack and the reference/reverence for dark fantasy literature and art, the film is almost like what one would expect a laser light, rock show at a planetarium to be if the lasers were to manifest complex images for sustained periods. The whole of it feels as though it takes place on another planet or a different dimension. If it weren't for the pop culture references within and the early '80s wardrobe, I would have assumed that.

I especially would assume the other worldliness as Nicholas Cage's performance in the first half of the film is measured, careful, humorous, even affable. He embodies the everyman, recovering alcoholic lumberjack he's meant to be. Then three demonic bikers clad in head to toe leather, summoned by Jeremiah Sand (Roache) and his followers come and tear it all to pieces.

It's at this turning point, Cage flips that switch we all know he has. He engages all the crazy of his body and lets it out. It doesn't come from out of left field either. It doesn't come into several monologues that are half-backed. It's in his pain and anguish and the bottle of clear liquor he finds in his bathroom, chugging half of it as he screams and cries and cleans his not insignificant wounds. He's a man possessed and deranged and with nothing to lose it's a fabulous, gore-tastic, drug fueled fantasia of revenge. The performance is a reminder that even as he's become synonymous with those types of roles, he's an actor who makes bold choices and when they work, they work.

I love that the dialogue, and especially any unnecessary expository dialogue, is sparse. What's there is necessary. It's witty, silly, and character motivated rather than just words filling up the air like what may happen in a film like this (if there is another film like this). Yet, I think like a lot of films in the revenge subgenre, the revenge plot is set off by the woman Red (Cage) loves being harmed and at that point becoming a passive entity rather than the active entity she has been. It is reminiscent of the women in refrigerators trope where a man is spurred to action only when his paramour is ruthlessly dispatched.

In Mandy it's not so much of a failing as the means to an end. The film wants to be a revenge epic, so what is the catalyst, what can happen to make that satisfying bloodbath take place? I almost wish Mandy (Riseborough) and Red could have gone on the journey together, side by side, blow for blow, but that's not the world that this film lives in. It lives in the firmament of the patriarchy. It's almost as if the partnership and sharing of Red and Mandy is meant to be the subversion of the ideals of Brother Jeremiah as he is the alpha of his group, taking what he pleases and using the other males as beta servants, which is why they seek to destroy it. Male entitlement and male ego fragility take the center stage.

That may be reading too much into a film that has so much going on that people can draw a myriad of conclusions from it. What Mandy really is, is entertainment lets anyone willing, escape into a bloody, silly, artful cinematic experience. I recommend it for anyone who can go into it without expectations and an open mind.

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