Review: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

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Cast: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able
Director: Jonathan Levine
Country: USA
Genre: Horror | Mystery | Thriller
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is now open in limited release and on VOD

Many are the movies withheld from the world by that arduous minefield we call “development hell”. Promising projects held up by an imbalance in the cross-section of commerce and art, caught up in an abyss of financial interests or funding failures. Less common, though by no means unheard of, is the kind of distribution hell where All the Boys Love Mandy Lane spent the last seven years since its 2006 premiere in Toronto and subsequent acquisition by The Weinstein Company. Though perhaps limbo is a more appropriate term here: like The Loved Ones, arriving at last in North American some three years after its initial premiere, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane emerges happily from its purgatorial past, scarred perhaps, but wearing those scars like badges of honour, quietly smiling as the frenzied whispers whip past.

…the film’s straightforward slasher setup sets the scene for a thoroughly ordinary and terribly uninteresting tour through the typical tropes of this horror narrative.

all_the_boys_love_mandy_lane_2006_3All of which, together with the remarkable full details of the eventually cyclical story, is but an extended prelude to a disappointing dénouement: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane just isn’t very good. Cloaked in the aura of so storied a distribution history, hyped by the hysteria of a small contingent from its European releases in 2008, its infamy prevents it from having precisely the quietly unassuming coming and going so unremarkable a genre effort deserves. Hardly helped by finally emerging on the wrong side of The Cabin in the Woods—a similarly shelved effort in itself, of course—the film’s straightforward slasher setup sets the scene for a thoroughly ordinary and terribly uninteresting tour through the typical tropes of this horror narrative.

That those tropes are deployed with distinct deliberation is small excuse: its defenders like to posit All the Boys Love Mandy Lane as an impressively intellectual spin on its slasher subgenre, but its protracted payoff plays more like a post-script ploy than anything else. There’s little in the way of ideological intent to its finale, like a Funny Games-esque wink dropped for nothing but its own sake. Conceived out of college by screenwriter Jacob Forman, the film has the feel of a fanboy effort, the output of one who lent too much thought to “what if?” and not nearly enough to “now what?” The Cabin in the Woods comparison, obvious though it may be, is important: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane thinks it’s enough to tweak the formula but a tad; acting as little more than a too-little-too-late addendum to a rote generic effort, its finale is more likely to see the eyes roll than widen.

There’s little in the way of ideological intent to its finale, like a Funny Games-esque wink dropped for nothing but its own sake. Conceived out of college by screenwriter Jacob Forman, the film has the feel of a fanboy effort, the output of one who lent too much thought to “what if?” and not nearly enough to “now what?”

all_the_boys_love_mandy_lane_2006_4That’s not to say it’s a movie sans merits, and the interim success of its principal players at least attests abundant talent, no shortage of which is to be uncovered here. Director Jonathan Levine, three movies—The Wackness, 50/50, and Warm Bodies—to his name since, has done perfectly well despite his debut’s delay; if nothing else, it offers an interesting look at the emergence of a visual style. Nodding copiously to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Levine here works well with the intrusive rays of the rising sun, though a certain tendency to allow its rays excess access to his frames warrants a raised hand in the final moments. Elsewhere, Amber Heard does well in a performance that stands up to the scrutiny of repeat viewings, not that many will be enticed to endure them.

She and Levine are perhaps the most successful of the movie’s alums—Twilight-starrer Michael Welch being their only true competition—making their apparent enthusiasm to have the film finally see the light of day proof positive that its near-decade of languishing hasn’t pruned their pride in the product. How nice for them; for the rest of us, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’s is a bemusing arrival, serving perhaps only to justify the Weinsteins’ original release reticence.

33/100 ~ AWFUL. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’s is a bemusing arrival, serving perhaps only to justify the Weinsteins’ original release reticence.

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.