filmmakers Hannah Marks’ “Mark, Mary and some other people” has a lot to do in its 90 minutes, so it hits the floor at full speed with its (first) two title characters, reconnects, dates and marries at the end of the opening credits. It’s a short advertisement, but believable; Mark (Ben Rosenfield) and Maria (Hayley Law) have charisma and chemistry to offer and also have a lot in common. You are both young; they’re both hot; Both of them can barely make ends meet and dream of better things (“I also clean houses!” “I also go for a walk with dogs!”).
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This is one of the most refreshing elements of Marks’ script. Most romantic comedies end with the Happily Ever After; He knows that Happily Ever After is tough as hell, and that’s where the real stories can be found. Mark and Mary soon find that being young and married isn’t as easy as it sounds – “I feel grown up … in a way I don’t … want to be?” She muses. And so she asks the question (preceded by a huge block text from “THE QUESTION” on the screen): “Would you ever consider an open matter?”
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And so you have the real theme of “Mark, Mary & Some Other People”; these other people are active gamblers too, albeit after a lot of haggling, questions, and rules. “Life is short; it’s exciting!” Maria explains. “Monogamy is stupid when you think about it.” But, in a nice twist on the way these things are usually dramatized, it’s not just that open marriage is Mary’s (enthusiastic) idea – Mark is initially resistant, insecure, and unsure of what she explains, what she calls it when googling. Ethical non-monogamy. ”
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“You already are Googlinghe exclaims.
This middle section is the sharpest of the picture as the two carefully push their boundaries (no exes, limited encounters with the same person, just safe sex, etc.) and initially things go very well because (as I said) they are both young and both hot ; They even find their separate adventures a little bit exciting, advising each other on their dating profiles and sharing their little stories. Aside from the usual weary cinematic double standards about which versions of bisexuality are void, the image is good-natured and open-minded about sex while recognizing its inevitable awkwardness and emotional complexity.
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Much of the movie’s success in these sections comes from the main cast, who cleverly avoid the potential stereotypes of their characters in order to make them unique and interesting. (On the other hand, the two biggest names are in the picture, Lea Thompson and Gillian Jacobs are wasted in short throwaway rolls.) Marks shows a dry sensibility and a gift for witty dialogue, even if the early scenes seem a little too intoxicated with their own cleverness.
It’s so fresh and so fun for the first hour or so that it’s a real disappointment to see everything fall to pieces on the home stretch, with a twist into drama that’s too much, too fast – and what more importantly, too much of things we’ve seen before. Rosenfeld and Law are charming leads, funky and witty, so it’s just agony to see them cry and moan and utter dialog from the Serious Relationship Movie. What’s worse, it’s perfectly certain where this thing is going, especially after you’ve seen the few cinematic explorations of open relationships that preceded it. Oddly enough, these films always turn into Hays code setbacks – apparently, to this day, if you experience carnal pleasures, you have to pay for it if you experience carnal joys when you commit the “sin” of adultery.
That’s a shame, because Rosenfeld and Law are terrific, Marks can put together a funny sequence and for a while “Mark, Mary, & Some Other People” clicks along with it. And then it just doesn’t work. [C+]
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