James enjoys this complex comedy about ethics in political PR, ‘Molly’s Girl’, staring Iris Prize Festival 2012 award winning actress Kristina Valada-Viars.
Mercedes (Emily Schweitz) is a fiery equal marriage activist. However, her zeal for her cause has left her relationship less than passionate, causing her long time girlfriend to leave. Whilst drowning her sorrows, she meets Molly (Kristina Valada-Viars), a socially awkward but sweet compulsive liar, and they end up having a one night stand. However, Molly’s advances, thinking that she’s found love in lesbianism, becomes too unbearable causing Mercedes to take out a restraining order. However, when she then finds out the Molly is the daughter of an influential but right-wing governor, she then uses her in an attempt to stage a political coup de gras at the governor’s own home during his birthday by parading as Molly’s fiancée.
Writer/director Scott T Thompson’s work is billed as a laugh out loud comedy, but this description really does it a disservice. Yes, it does have many wonderful moments in it that are endearing, cringe worthy, or just plain funny, but what the hype fails to take into account is the fact that it’s actually an incredibly intelligent and complex narrative with a really important political and social message at its heart.
Political messages can often be portrayed far too binary, ham-handed, or over simplified in some films. However, Thompson, despite the ridiculousness of the scenario itself, not only assumes more than political novice from his audience, but all really criticises and examines the political PR machine and its ethics instead of dumbing things down. Although evidently and shamelessly pro-equal marriage, it takes a deeper more cerebral look at what exactly is fair in love and war. The governor, his cocky aide, and all-American conservative family all spout the familiar right-wing stance, however Mercede’s intrusion into their personal lives for political point-scoring through exploiting their daughter’s mental and emotional vulnerability feels just as dubious and uncomfortable, creating a narrative with a flawed hero. It’s a complexity that Thompson relishes turning what could have easily been a game of political ‘Snap’ into one of chess.
The films only downfall is that after promising the face-paced wit and giggles of the opening you’re suddenly hit with something deeper and more serious that you’re just not expecting – it’s not the 1990′s farce that we’ve become accustomed to or seemed to be at the start. It’s not that the more cerebral portion of the film feels out of place, drags, or is too forced, it’s just unexpected. Also everything is tied with a touch too much cliché with revelations and resolutions worthy of an after school special. After being boldly complex, it’s just a bit too ‘happily ever after’.
But these are only petty niggles as it’s still a wholly enjoyable film, especially with the performances behind it. As a mere supporting role it’s astonishing just how well Ellan Dolan carries herself as Molly’s mother. She is extraordinary in being an absolutely despisable matriarch with the sincerity of blunt object – despicable, devious, and utterly delightful to watch. But Valada-Viars really steals the show. There is so much nuance to her performance which she performs to beautiful affect – everything from how she stares distant into her hand mirror to avoid a situation, to the strange measure of her rambling and elaborate lies. She is as adorable as she is astonishing in her role, making a deep and enticing performance of a character who could have otherwise been a too tragic, simple and irritating.
Surprising and good fun it’s worth your time. A great execution in bringing robust politics to the table through fun and frivolity.
Molly’s Girl was screened as part of the Iris Prize Festival 2012 which took place in Cardiff, UK, between 10-14 October 2012. To find out more about the prize visit www.irisprize.org. Don’t forget to check out more of our Iris Prize coverage.
Featured Image: Kristina Valada-Viars (left) and Emily Schweitz (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Iris Prize Festival 2012.