Directed by: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Starring: Thanapob Leeratanakajorn, Chonnikan Netjui, Patcha Poonpiriya
The fan edit is a growing, though legally dubious, phenomenon in recent years, whereby members of the public with the necessary software take films and recut them, often improving on the director's original version. A popular fan edit managed to completely erase Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace without adversely effecting its plot. Another recut David Lynch's Dune into something almost comprehensible. Recently an edit of Gravity has emerged, from which the overbearing score has been excised. I believe the director's vision should be the one to stand, for better or worse, but Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy is an example of a movie that could greatly benefit from a less indulgent re-edit.
Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's sophomore film is an attempt to form a movie from 410 consecutive tweets from a twitter user known as Mary Maloney (@Marylony), a Thai teenager. The account seems to have been set up in September 2009, which suggests it belongs to an actual person, as Nawapol didn't make his first movie, 36, until three years after that date. The tweets don't form any particular storyline, and as such, the film is a breezy affair, driven by the warmth of its central protagonists, Mary and her friend Suri.
There are references and homages to Wong-Kar-Wai, Jean-Luc Godard and Ang Lee, but Nawapol's film plays out mostly like a teen version of a Hong Sang-Soo movie, excessive alcohol consumption replaced here with an obsession with a popular brand energy drink. Like the work of Sang-Soo, Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy feels like its main influences are the films of Godard and the Peanuts cartoons of Charles Schultz, its characters drifting from scene to scene in what can seem like an aimless, but thoroughly engaging fashion. This works a treat for roughly an hour, as we ride along on the boundless energy of Nawapol and his kooky characters. At first the practice of flashing the tweets onscreen is intensely annoying, but after the first half hour or so, you become numb to the distraction as Mary and Suri win you over with their distinctive brand of bonkers charm.
Unfortunately, the movie takes a turn for the worse in its third act, leading to a final 45 minutes (of a two hour plus movie) that seem to drag on endlessly. Nawapol's previous movie ran for little more than an hour, and had he shown similar restraint here, we'd be hailing this as one of the most enjoyable films of 2014. As it stands, it's a fan edit waiting to happen.
By Eric Hillis