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Featured DVD Review: A Very Mary Christmas

September 23rd, 2012

A Very Mary Christmas - Buy from Amazon

A Very Mary Christmas was originally called Expecting Mary when it first came out in limited release. It opening in more than 50 theaters but with almost no press and disappeared as fast as it arrived. Now it is coming out on a bargain basement DVD with a new name that emphasizes is Christmas angle with a CD of Christmas carols. That's not a good sign. Is it better than its box office performance? Or is there a good reason it wouldn't want to be associated with its old name?

The Movie

Olesya Rulin stars as the titular Mary, whom we meet hitchhiking on the side of the road. She's 16, pregnant, and running away from her mother to get to her father, whom she hopes will be more understanding with her situation. She gets picked up by Horace Weitzel, a truck driver. He wants to know if she likes polka music and puts on an eight-track of what he calls the happiest music on Earth. He asks if she's hungry and suggests stopping at the Kaiyute Casino for their buffet. Horance loves the food, but his girlfriend also works there, Darnella, a showgirl.

When the pair get to the casino, Horace introduces Mary to the owner, Lillian Littlefeather, the last of the Kaiyutes, or to be more accurate, she was married to the last of the Kaiyutes. After watching a Elvis impersonator perform, Darnella performs with Shar D'onnay (Teresa Ganzel) and Crystal Lite as part of the Kaiyute Kai-yuties. The performance is too much for Horace and he has a fatal heart attack. Darnella offers Mary a room for the night before she continues her journey to her father's place.

The next day Mary hangs out with Darnella, meets a couple residents of the trailer park, including Doris Dorkus, who is the grumpy owner and a potential romantic interest. (And later that night, Annie, the crazy pig farmer.) After they bury Horace, Mary prepares to leave for Los Angeles, but Darnella tells her to stay another night. Annie figures out that Darnella is trying to get Mary to stay and be a surrogate daughter and tells her it won't work out. It doesn't, and the next day Mary leaves, on a bus, to see her father.

Mary's reunion with her father, Taylor, doesn't go so well. Taylor was is a rocker whose glory days involved one hit in the 1980s and a tour with Guns'n'Roses. However, he hasn't given up the dream and he's about to go on tour. After a short conversation, Mary realizes he's not ready to be a father and can't offer her the emotional support she needs. She can't go back home to her mother, at least not yet, so she decides to go to the one place where people were nice to her, Darnella's. But eventually she's going to have to deal with her mother and deal with becoming a mother herself.

I've mentioned that a lot of independent comedies suffer from acute quirkiness; the characters are not real people, but instead are merely collections of quirks. This is certainly the case here and this flaw permeates every other part of the film. Because nearly every character feels like a screenwriter's creation, it is harder to become emotionally involved in what happens to them. The film earnestly tries to be emotional, and does succeed to a limited degree, but most of the characters are working against it. The plot was also rather pedestrian, but it still could have been a simple emotionally uplifting film, had the characters been grounded in reality. Additionally, because the characters are little more than quirks, its much harder for the actors to bring them to life. This starts out right away, as Elliott Gould strangely over-enunciates everything. The only character that does have a basis in reality is Mary and Olesya Rulin, despite being surrounded by veteran stars, is the best part of the film. Only one of the supporting actors is able to rise above this issue, Cloris Leachman, who can play cranky and crazy and still make it feel real. She is the only other actor to put in a performance that's an asset to the film.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD, but it comes with a CD containing ten Christmas songs.

The Verdict

A Very Mary Christmas has a strong central performance from Olesya Rulin, but that's about it. If the filmmakers had aimed for a simple uplifting story instead of filling it with quirkiness, it would have been worth recommending. On the other hand, the DVD / CD Combo pack costs just $7, and there's certainly worse ways to spend $7.

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Filed under: Video Review, Expecting Mary