I wanted to take a slightly different approach to the “Films U Missed” column this time out, primarily because the film I wanted to feature made it necessary. Usually our business is to highlight great films that the majority of the U.S. public ignored upon its theatrical release and continued to do so on the home video market. However, the film I wanted to highlight for you hasn’t been released in the U.S. to date. Not theatrically or on DVD/Blu-ray, but you can still see it. And hey, Martin Scorsese chose The Horse Thief, a film released in 1986 as his favorite film from the 90s, so hear me out.
The story revolving around All the Boys Love Mandy Lane goes a little something like this. As high school girls are apt to do, Mandy Lane has developed into a stunner over the course of the summer between sophomore and junior year. When school begins, all eyes are trained on her. Guys lustily gaze at her as she struts through the halls. She now embodies beauty, but still carries the same subdued personality her prior two years had engrained in her. Her only friend is the emo kid, Emmett, she’s grown up with, but all of that’s about to change.
Mandy’s newfound hotness opens a lot of doors for her and the first one we’re treated to is an invite to a pool party with the requisite popular girls and guys. Of course the host doesn’t extend the invitation to Emmett, but Mandy makes it known that unless he comes, she doesn’t. They’re both in attendance. At the party, Emmett is quickly forgotten about and Mandy retains her closed-off appearance, not feeling at home with these types of people. Of course, she remains the ultimate prize and receives her fair share of attention from the host as he does his future-frat-boy best to entice Mandy into a compromising situation. She shrugs him off and the unlikely Emmett advises him that his approach is just like all the other poor schmucks trying to get at Mandy. Emmett tells him he needs to do something to distinguish himself from the pack. He does.
Nine months later and the school year winds down. Mandy is now at ease with her body, but still does her best to keep herself at a certain distance from the popular kids at school. She continues to lead the pack while running track during P.E. class, but when Emmett tries to catch up to her, she makes it clear she’s moved on from their friendship, too. The call of popularity is a loud and persistent one, however, and Mandy eventually caves to voluntarily go on a weekend vacation with two girls and three other guys at a country ranch house. Just enough for a triad of pairs. The ranch house brings a sense of freedom to the group, but a wave of fear just the same when someone or something goes bump in the night.
High school is a time and place of burgeoning bodies and experiences. The phenomenon of summertime blossoming is a very real experience for young girls. My high school crush was very similar to Mandy in terms of development time-frame. She made the transition from “cute” to “hot” sometime between sophomore and junior year. Although I’d never make the mistake of saying being a guy is easy, always having the looming fear of rejection awaiting you when considering asking a girl on a date. However, things must be absurdly difficult for a girl like Mandy, when every guy on campus is pining for her attention and affection. How does she maintain the values she’s been instilled with, while facing constant badgering and opportunity to the contrary? This is the crux of the film, which proves exactly how difficult her situation must be. It’s the opposite of the nerdy fatboy role, but no less harrowing.
Amber Heard is visually crucial as Mandy. She’s not an actress so obviously playing beneath her age. She still maintains some of the facial baby fat to where you can buy her as one just recently removed from her awkward teenage phase to become a young woman. Also, the premise of a girl drawing the lustful eyes of every high school horndog is impossible to pull off without an actress who genuinely fits the bill. Certainly Hollywood is not devoid of young female visual talent, but being appealing to high school males and people across the age and gender spectrum are two different sets of skills. For that, Heard’s casting is commended and hopefully she continues to receive roles as complex as Mandy Lane into the future, as to my knowledge, it hasn’t occurred yet.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was director Jonathan Levine’s first feature, and luckily for him he’s been able to bounce back from the convoluted (and still unresolved) release situation surrounding this film, to write and direct last year’s unseen gem, The Wackness. Both films focus on the high school relationship experience in very different ways and if he were to continue the trend he’d have the opportunity to solidify himself as a darker John Hughes.
The film, written by Jacob Forman, teeters on the edge of cliché at times which certainly isn’t the reason I’m recommending a viewing, but rather for the twists that make it unique from the typical slasher film. The high school horror is of course nothing new, ever since Michael Myers was hunting Laurie Strode and her brethren in Halloween. However, this film doesn’t resort to having a seemingly immortal masked monster causing terror. Instead, although the ranch house setting makes for cinematic fantasy, the horror and killings contain a reality reminiscent of the Columbine massacre. It without a doubt serves as a cautionary parable far beyond the usual horror adage of “don’t have sex before marriage.”
Although the film has yet to be screened in the Unites States (which has nothing to do with the film’s content), aside from a few film festivals, I wouldn’t recommend it if it were completely unattainable. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has been released on both Blu-ray and DVD in the UK, either of which can be purchased from Amazon UK and shipped here for a decent price. This may not be a fully transcendent piece of art, but is far better than even the average horror release, which in and of itself seems to be harder to come by these days. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a not-because-you-ignored-it Film U Missed.
Buy this Film U Missed here.