Note: This post is part of an ongoing project, the goal of which is to watch and contemplate every movie in which actor Gary Oldman has appeared (there are many, the man likes to work). Posts tend to contain reviews but are not excluded to that sort of framework– much like Gary’s career, I’m wildly unpredictable!
As with all MYWG entries, the following will probably contain spoilers!
- Mary‘s ranking on the Oldometer: 2/10
- Gary Oldman character quality: David is a bland, incredibly average horror hero. Gary gets in a few interesting readings of garbage dialogue, but there’s not a whole lot he can do here, and it turns out he’s not the star of the show.
- Does Gary Die in this one? Boat-Witch:1 Gary: 0
WTF DOES SCREAM INSIDE YOUR HEART EVEN MEAN
Hello. First thing’s first: My Year with Gary has died a few times. I started this project in 2016– FOUR YEARS AGO, and have contributed to it haltingly since then. I have undoubtedly lost by now what little readership I once had, and boy, have times changed. For one, I have a master’s degree now– it took me longer than average to achieve it due to a year off (financial concerns– IE no money), and a longer-than-desired period of constructing my thesis, but as of Spring 2020 I’m officially a Master. Thus far, too few people have granted my request to call me by this title, but I’ll wear them down. Also, the world has been plunged into what appears to be a chaotic hellscape. The intersection of these two changes has inflicted a sense of duty upon me, and it seems like a good time to finish what I started: viewing and contemplating the still ever-expanding mixed-bag that is Gary Oldman’s career. While the blog title is not negotiable, this small corner of the interwebs has now become Years with Gary, and that’s okay. Let it never be said that I am not a completist– I am merely tortoise-like in my approach to anything that matters to me. We’ll say that this is because I am very thoughtful. Yes, we’ll say that.
In my absence, Gary has been a busy bee. He got divorced and married again (to a photographer lady who seems very nice judging from her instagram). He’s been toiling away at what is apparently his passion project, a biopic about Eedweard Muybridge. And, post-Oscar, it would seem that the world was his oyster– after working hard to regain the foothold he had lost as a lead actor back in the 90’s, he could be taken seriously again. Gary could finally say boo to paychecks for appearances in straight-to-the-dvd-bargain-bin movies. He could be courted by auteurs once more! Maybe do a little Shakespeare! Play the lead in a comedy as he always said he’d like to do but couldn’t because audiences found him too scary! With “Oscar Winner” at last attached to his name, the offers came pouring in. So what was Gary’s first decision, his first choice to continue his reign of excellence?
But is it…. see-worthy?
A genre horror B-movie about a cursed boat directed by the guy who did 4 episodes of American Horror Story. And not even the good episodes. Like two of them are from AHS: Hotel and I think we can all agree that doesn’t bode well.
Mary is called Mary because that’s the haunted boat’s name. It’s also the name of Gary’s character’s daughter, because lest you think this might just be some spooky tale of the horrors of the deep, it also includes a little girl doing what creepy children do best: drawing ghoulish things in crayon. There is a teen daughter here, too, and she brings along her boyfriend and a bikini that is way too flimsy for treacherous sailing (I only mention this because said bikini takes up way too much of the characters’ attention). Finally, there’s Gary as David, a sailor-for-life whose vast (mast) experience has apparently taught him nothing to caution him against purchasing what is clearly a boat from hell, and his wife played by the ever-underrated squeaky Emily Mortimer, the sole voice of reason in this mess.
Not voice of reason enough, though, cause the little family sets off for some sea-farin’ good times on their way to Bermuda (sadly, the legendary line “blow me to Bermuda [evil Sailboat]”, which is what I always think of when the islands are mentioned, is never uttered– too bad, it would have been the bright spot in the script). This journey includes, but is not limited to, every single boring cliche that exists. Those scary drawings. A sinister bolt of lightning flashes when the boat is christened. Footprints appear and vanish, weird noises occur, cabin doors are mysteriously locked at inopportune times, people start acting all possessed, David does NOT approve of his teen daughter’s bathing suit, Emily Mortimer has nightmares (not about the bathing suit, but I’m sure that’s in a deleted scene somewhere). All that might be enjoyably absurd, even spooky if infused with the right sort of cinematic flair that an interesting filmmaker might conjure, but don’t worry! None of that here!
Eventually, the boyfriend is killed off (via suicide cause, you know, possessed), the creepy girl takes a vow of silence–
–I’m sorry but I have to break for a sec to tell you that I typed “Cow of Silence” just then and am now dead in the hyperbolic sense as a result– hey if you take a cow of silence, will anyone know? hey Clarice do you still hear the moos– OK I apologize for everything I just said, but also, you know, at this point we have to enjoy the little things–
— anyway, VOW of silence, and starts doing violent shit like smacking her sister in the face with a drinking glass. There’s other stuff too, but I might have been scrolling through my phone for most of it. Finally, Emily Mortimer and David do some research on their boat of death, only to find out that it’s a boat of death. It has steered each of its passengers to the same mysterious coordinates, resulting in the vanishing of all who have dared to test their powers of navigation on its spooky sails (or whatever you use to captain a boat). Also, somewhere in here it is revealed that the boat is haunted by a witch who lost her children at sea.
The only interesting aspect of Mary is that the titular boat’s voyage is prompted by David and Emily Mortimer’s hopes to reboot their family with togetherness; an attempt to heal after Emily has cheated on her husband. So it’s a bit Shining-on-the-sea, with a troubled family starting anew in solitude, haunted by figments of the past. When Emily, who is particularly targeted by the boat witch, starts to voice her concerns, of course her husband views her as untrustworthy. He futilely sticks to his charted course, and Emily frets that he has been overtaken by Mary, the metaphor being that you can’t just ignore the past and will yourself forward– you gotta deal with it, or it will deal with you. It being the witch-boat.
The witch-boat gets ’em in the end– just when the couple start working together to save their kids, the witch herself materializes, along with a crazy storm, and wreaks… water havoc! She gets David, who at least goes out a hero– RIP yet again, Gary– but Emily blows up her ghostly opponent with a flare gun. This also blows up the entire boat somehow. In the end, we find out it wasn’t David who got possessed, it’s Emily! Now she’s the witch! Is this because she shares the maternal instincts to protect her kids? Or is it because she was unfaithful and thus a bad bitch for life? Or is it guilt that’s rotted her insides, making a nice conduit for the sea sorceress?
The answer is probably D) none of the above, Director of random American Horror Story Episodes just wanted to end on a “scare” with sequel potential. D, coincidentally, is also the grade I would give this flotsam. Gary is decent, though he gives a pretty relaxed performance (even letting slip his impeccably consistent accent skills), it is still one that feels lived-in enough that, were it not for David’s dumb choices, one feels he’s been a hardworking seaman forever. Emily Mortimer, low-key one of my favorite actresses (please watch her in Lars and the Real Girl or something, anything else) has the most screentime and works very hard to ultimately carry the film, but it’s that damn course! It’s irreversible, and probably manufactured by a (hollywood) demon.
There is something resonate about Mary (also, a much better film from the 90’s starring Cameron Diaz)– not the film itself, but the experience of watching it in this fall of 2020, that does generate some reflection. I don’t know about you, but I can relate to feeling both trapped and adrift on a sea of uncertainty in this hazardous time. Unable to go anywhere, locked into a vessel constructed by terrible past events that I had no control over. The boat that is 2020 is pulling us closer and closer on its course of disaster, and leadership can’t be trusted. Our own feelings can’t even be trusted because we’re all subject to manipulation by other forces. Like poor Emily Mortimer, even those of us who see the danger and try to resist the doom of it all might very well be in the process of becoming monstrous ourselves. Or maybe we’re Captain Gary, in denial that we have been made vulnerable despite lots (and lots) of evidence to the contrary.
But I don’t like to think about that too much. I’ve never been accused of being an optimist, but I do believe in free will, and with it the capability to change course. If we want.
Instead, I’d rather consider Gary himself. Why would Oscar Winner Gary Oldman attach himself to this literal sinking ship of a movie at this high point in his career? Maybe he wanted another easy paycheck– divorces aren’t cheap, and Oldman’s got like 4 of them under his belt now. Maybe it just looked fun! Beaches! Growing your hair out! A respite from historical biopics and fat suits and sitting in the makeup chair for 5 hours! Or maybe he just didn’t know what to do next. Change, even when it’s good, can be stultifying, and sometimes we just don’t handle it well. Then we end up at sea.
The nice thing about that, though, is that life goes on. Ole Gary’s probably gonna make some more trash movies, but he’ll survive. Eventually he’ll even bounce back (probably with a David Fincher movie later this year). OK, I’ll admit that’s a very silly metaphor and a privileged sort of conclusion– for some, a bad decision or even indecision may very well be the end, and ya gotta go down with that ship. But for the lucky rest of us, we just have to keep choosing to do the next right thing. If we do that enough times, our DVD Bargain Bin past will get smaller and smaller, until it’s finally a blip in the grand scope of our existence. It might still be a painful part of our history, but we can rest assured that we tried to press on.
So: 2020 has been like a vacation in Hades. A veritable bargain bin of trash! People have died. Some of us wish we were dead. Everything is on fire. We’re all poor AF unless we’re Elon Musk (or his new baby who is probably a robot). If anything is certain, it’s that we’re living in satire. Collectively, we have the mental health and acuity of a raisin. But there’s still power in decision, even if our available options seem flat-out stupid. What did I, your esteemed author, choose to do after earning the illustrious title of Master? I went back to unpaid blogging about Gary Oldman for an audience of zero. It may seem pointless, but at the time it was/is the next right thing to do with my limited power. I can only hope it leads to better things, even if that just means PRACTICE for better things.
So. I don’t know. Brush your teeth. Pray for grace. Be nice to the person hopefully six feet away from you at the gas station. Don’t buy boats. Wash your hands. Sign petitions. Mourn. Resist. Try not to despair too much. Vote. For God’s sake, stop arguing with that idiot in the facebook comments. In short, avoid diving further into the DVD bargain bin– unless, of course, there’s a good deal in there. Sometimes you can find a gem in a pile of trash.
But not Mary. Leave that one in there.