Having recently been impressed with François Chang’s début feature finding source material in a Lady Gaga hit “Bad Romance,” it seemed an excellent time to view Eytan Fox’s four-part mini-series, Mary Lou.
In the same vein as crafting a musical/film out of songs (Mamma Mia!), the music of Svika Pick, the popular Israeli singer-songwriter (who briefly appears as himself) with a knack for pleasant tunes if somewhat saccharine lyrics (“Sometimes dreams come true” feeding the main plot of drag-queen-in-training Meir’s—Ido Rosenberg wears his gowns with the greatest of ease but is badly in need of a vocal coach for his non lip-sync numbers—search for his suddenly departed mom, Mary Lou—Maya Dagan plays the angelic role with faraway style; “All that remains a dull ember,” while Ori—the captivating Yedidya Vital, a.k.a. Miss Sunshine on stage—endures a beating at the surprised hands of a pick-up date whose journey to a very private place fastens on an unexpected bit of anatomy. (Sadly, with not even the pathetic character flaw in any way established, the bruised showgirl calls up her/his attacker and they begin dating.) Later “Some lives aren’t worth living” gets a chilling encore.
Without a doubt, it’s the dance scenes that contain the best moments. Oz Morag’s infectious choreography is engagingly rendered by the ensemble, more than making up for the pedestrian plot points and limited characterizations. Having the considerable talents of The Holy Wigs—Jerusalem’s première drag queen troupe—is another visual plus. Director Eytan Fox and his production team (especially director of photography Yaron Scharf) have captured the darting images with consummate skill and managed to edit down (Ron Omer, a master with every cut and fade) the many hours of takes into a snappy whole that will delight gay and straight crowds alike.
Of the remaining leads, Shumel Vilozni as David Levi—abandoned husband, uncomfortable with his son becoming a daughter for pay—bites his stoic tongue so long that his closing revelation seems as false as the manmade cleavage that stokes the female façade nightly. Meir’s best girlfriend Shuli is eagerly brought to adult life by Dana Frider who effortlessly morphs from wounded lover to enthusiastic fag hag. Her sometime boyfriend Gabriel (Alon Levi with camera appeal for any gender) opts to mask his sexuality in the military but is, nonetheless, helplessly drawn to Meir and his fully loaded pistol.
More telling than anything else, the inclusion of Charles Aznavour singing “What Makes a Man a Man” (just after the line “I change my sex before their very eyes” unintentionally reconstructs the last scene in Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna), succinctly demonstrates the power of superior song writing and delivery.
Nonetheless, for those who prefer their impossible dreams done up light and frothy, Mary Lou is highly recommended. JWR