Lovely Molly (2011)

As I write this it’s Monday evening and the remnants of Hurricane Sandy are battering the five boroughs. It’s certainly a serious storm but the LIBERAL MEDIA has been promoting it like it’s the End of Days. TV weathermen are such hypocrites. They stand there all dignified and serious, describing gale-force winds and urging viewers not to go outside. They act like delivering this kind of information is the worst part of their job, like those World War II messengers who drove around bringing death-o-grams to devastated widows and orphans. They didn’t make this awful weather, they seem to say, but someone has to report it.

Sure, weathermen don’t create storms, but they absolutely wish they could. If weathermen controlled the weather, we’d all be building arks. They want this shit to happen. It makes their jobs exciting and important. Meteorologists see three low pressures systems merging and they don’t think about the impending loss of life. They’re too busy nursing raging boners over finally getting to use their typhoon warning graphics. If anchormen approached the news with the same salivating ecstasy weathermen display when upgrading a cyclone to category four, Brian Williams would be the most notorious serial killer in history.

For reasons passing understanding I was out walking around in the preamble to today’s storm, which totally sucked ass. The only upside was I got to break out the powder blue rain gear I haven’t used since I bought it at Wal-Mart eleven years ago. When I moved out of my old apartment I left behind or threw out appliances, furniture, old writing notebooks, and all sorts of other shit that had monetary or sentimental value. But I packed that fucking plastic costume up and hauled it all over Long Island like it was an heirloom. TWICE. Good news: it totally repels a strong drizzle.

I stopped at a Rite Aid while I was out where I found about fifteen customers absolutely losing their minds. Turns out the store was open but there were no employees to be found. I walked in just as the leader of the frantic group was explaining the situation to a pair of uniformed cops. The woman said they weren’t stealing, they wanted to buy things but didn’t know what to do. (A helpful college kid added, “We just wanna buy some fuckin’ beer!”) She said they even tried calling Rite Aid corporate headquarters. Shockingly, that yielded no results. They seemed like they were looking for any possible way to avoid the irresistible urge to steal everything that wasn’t nailed down.

The officers kept telling them all to clam down, that they weren’t there in response to a report. For a second I thought, holy shit, these cops are considering looting themselves. I might have thought about it too if it weren’t for my instantly recognizable pastel jumpsuit. But most likely those tired cops just went to the wrong store for their post-shift lottery tickets. They were probably trying to determine whether the security cameras had seen them, requiring them to stay and defuse the situation, or if they could just slowly back away and let the mob have at it.

Close the door, you’re letting all the evil out.

The story: Molly and Tim have been married for about a year when they decide to move into Molly’s childhood home, which belongs to Molly and her sister now that both their parents are dead. But shit is not right with that house, where clearly something very bad happened in the past. Molly’s troubled history makes her especially vulnerable to the strange goings-on, threatening both their marriage and their lives.

Wait, there are subtitles? In binary?

Biggest letdown: Ah ha! Lovely Molly is NOT a found footage movie, despite the completely anachronistic timestamp in the corner of that image. No, that filming convention is used only to show us Molly’s point-of-view, or at least the world as she perceives it, which will become important later. (It’s also used in a short expository montage at the beginning, but that doesn’t fit into my theory so IGNORE IT.)

The worst thing about this movie is, sadly, the casting of the two main characters, Molly and Tim. They are played by Gretchen Lodge and Johnny Lewis but before I go any further, I want to point something out. Johnny Lewis is dead. He died at the age of 28 almost exactly one month ago. I first encountered him as Half-Sack in Sons of Anarchy. Like the show, he was excellent. He was a promising young actor who was just beginning to build a really solid film résumé to go with his extensive TV work. The circumstances surrounding his death are still not completely known but they are certainly bizarre and tragic.

In Lovely Molly, both Lewis and Lodge are quite good. Lodge hasn’t done much else as yet but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her. She is as committed an actor as any director could want, and she’s gorgeous to boot. I have no complaints about either her performance or that of her late co-star. It’s just that both of them are far too pristinely beautiful for their respective roles, which are supposed to be impoverished blue collar types. Tim, we’re told, is a long-haul trucker, while Molly is some sort of janitor. Yet Lewis and Lodge look like slender and stylish hipsters, with their perfect bodies, artsy tattoos and flawlessly un-styled hair. Maybe their career choices are ironic?

Totally possible the nametag vest is a hip affectation I’m not cool enough to know about.

It’s a shame because there’s no need to impose class restrictions on the roles, except to justify why Tim leaves Molly alone in that house so often, and why they can’t afford to pull up stakes and leave when things get dicey. There are myriad ways to explain that sort of thing. The choice to make them Southern white trash is fine, but the casting has to match for it to work.

Why you should watch: Lovely Molly was written and directed by Eduardo Sanchez, otherwise known as the talented half of the team behind The Blair Witch Project. It’s a total coincidence but he happens to be from Cuba, the birthplace of yesterday’s Juan of the Dead.

Zombie deer! Just kidding. But I would watch that movie.

I’ve enjoyed some of Sanchez’ solo efforts since Blair Witch, but none of them were nearly as ambitious or risky as Lovely Molly. How successful it is will depend largely on the individual viewer, but I found it to be just about the most disturbing movie I’ve seen this year. And it comes up on you fast, changing from something you’re prepared for into something you wish you weren’t watching. I came into it thinking it was a standard haunted house yarn, so I sold it to my wife as such and she agreed to watch it. I had no way of knowing but that is just the tip of the macabre-berg. Some seriously fucked up things happen in this movie and my wife literally got mad at me for exposing her to it. We slept with the light on last night.

Not so lovely now, are we?

Remember that time like two days ago when I said I hate when horror movies play the “is it real/is it all in his head” game? Well I’m as bad as a weatherman because a big part of what I enjoyed about Lovely Molly was the question of how much was tangible to others, and how much was just part of her troubled psyche. I spent all day trying to justify my blatant double standard and here’s what I came up with: it’s one thing to present the question up front so the exploration of the two alternatives becomes a major thrust of the movie. It’s quite another to build in a sneaky way to not just reveal a big surprise at the end, but to actually invalidate everything the audience has just invested in. The first method encourages the audience to participate. The second is designed to make the viewer feel like an asshole for buying into something that was bullshit. It also helps if your movie is good and not a steaming puddle of filmic diarrhea.

(FYI, I just spelled diarrhea correctly without help from a spell checker for the first time in my life. I am an atrocious speller. I have trouble remembering how man l’s are in towell.)

That rationalization was HORRIFYING. What about Fight Club??

Memorable Moment: The very first sign of shenanigans in the house occurs when Molly and Tim have just settled in for the night. The alarm goes off and Tim vaults out of bed to grab the standard-issue bedroom baseball bat that I am apparently unique in not possessing. He psyches himself up to charge downstairs, but Molly begs him to wait for the police. He trots out my biggest pet peeve, telling her to wait there while he goes to check it out. Why would anyone do this? What if whoever’s downstairs has a gun? He will shoot you, then still have time to raid the fridge before walking upstairs to kill your wife. Ah, but Molly is one step ahead of me as she adamantly refuses to split up. If he won’t stay in the locked bedroom like a sane person, then she will accompany him on his ill- advised sortie. Bravo.

Choice quote: “Whatever happened, it wasn’t me.”

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