REVIEW: Marvelous Mandy
– By MovieCritic NextDoor
Harvey Fowler (Jonathan Stottmann) isn’t having an easy time of things. His wife left him and he’s struggling to look after their young daughter, Clementine (Kenna Hardin), who gets teased at school for not having a mother. She might also get teased for being named Clementine, but that isn’t clear. Harvey also tells dubious jokes at a comedy club because he can’t afford therapy. Then he meets Mandy Simpkins (Paula Marcenaro Solinger), author of the Marvelous Mandy children’s books, and everything changes.
Clementine loves the Mandy books, for one thing, and Harvey is fascinated by their author. Mandy is one of those vivacious, outgoing people who seem to live every day to the fullest, and the neurotic, uncertain Harvey can’t resist her enthusiasm. Unfortunately, neither can Charlie (Spencer Korcz), who’s insanely jealous of Harvey. Even Jed (R. Wayne Hogue Jr.) is a little too interested in her, despite being the boyfriend of Mandy’s co-worker Skyler (Ryley Nicole). What’s a girl to do?
Well, she’s certainly enjoying the attention, for one thing. She’s less sure about being a possible stepmother to Clementine, however, and has a strange way of showing her reluctance. Between this and some odd and unsettling hints about her past that start to surface, Harvey contacts a police detective turned private detective, Mike Cherry (Keith Nicholson). Imagine how his fellow officers made fun of a name like that. But with a little luck and a little skill, Cherry starts homing in on the truth, and Mandy doesn’t like that one bit.
It’s got a solid plot and a good script, generally well-acted — Nicholson steals his scenes with his slightly over the top detective, for instance, while Solinger is beautifully cast as the extremely over the top Mandy. And Stottmann is sweetly awkward as Harvey, doing his best for his little girl even though he can’t do much of anything else right no matter how hard he tries.
Unfortunately, technically speaking the film is something of a mess. The sound level varies greatly even within a single conversation, ranging from too quiet to hear to loud enough to wake up the cat sleeping six feet away. Scenes of people walking go on much too long. Several times the camera operator didn’t seem aware of who was speaking or where the action was happening so that it could be filmed.
If you can overlook those flaws, though, it’s a nicely balanced blend of psychological horror and a good old-fashioned slasher film, and is an entertaining watch. It’ll make you wonder about what really goes on in the back of those quaint little used bookstores.