Posted by Holly
There is an inherent difference between necessary pain and masochistic pain. Think, for instance, of the pain you feel when recovering from having a wisdom tooth extracted – severe at first, before ultimately leading to relief and healing. Then imagine slamming your hand in a car door repeatedly. Obviously, one of those serves a purpose and the other one is pain for the sake of pain. Lovely Molly is the cinematic equivalent of slamming your hand in a door for an hour and a half.
Let’s just start with the premise: after getting married, Tim and Molly movie into Molly’s childhood home, a place that holds painful and traumatic memories of being sexually abused by her father. Through discussions with Molly’s sister, we learn about this experience, and the subsequent drug addiction Molly suffered later in life. Shortly after what seems to be a break in attempt, Tim must leave for a length of time (due to his occupation as a truck driver), and Molly is left alone there. With prolonged time alone in a house that holds such traumatic associations for her, Molly’s grip on reality begins to slip into a feverish nightmare that infects everything around her.
I hate rape and/or sexual abuse as a plot device. Even so, there are ways it can be used that are sensitive and respectful to the subject and to the audience. I believe there are stories that have done this; I can even believe that there are horror stories that have done this. This felt purely exploitative – the audience had to sit through long sequences of disassociation in which Molly would have outbursts of strange sexual behavior, or seem to completely leave herself, staring blankly into the dark while sitting alone and naked. That is not entertainment, nor is it in any way satisfying to a viewer. And moreover, it isn’t even an original idea. In the past year alone, I’ve watched at least three or four films whose premise hinged on “young girl becomes crazy after being raped by her father.” It’s that common.
As Molly’s behavior becomes more strange, I suppose it was supposed to come across as scary. As time wears on, she becomes more violent, more seemingly possessed by something unnatural that is causing the outbursts. However, it is unclear if this is actually supposed to be a supernatural film, or a tragic story about a girl who was abused, which causes her to slip back into a harmful addiction, which then causes her to lash out and hurt those around her. There are probably two hints in the film of it being supernatural, one that could have easily been a hallucination in Molly’s increasingly delusional mind.
Even when you discount the content, this movie was narratively all over the place. It’s trying to sell the story of Molly’s abuse, her drug addiction, marital infidelity, her relationship with her sister, the presence of a demon, a possession, and oh yeah, an implication of horse rape in case all of the previous information wasn’t awful enough to tussle with in one story. There are too many elements being juggled for such a bare bones approach in storytelling to support. It tries to tackle an overwhelming amount of heavy topics, and as a result, fails to say anything meaningful about any of them.
The one compliment I will give this movie is the main actress’s performance. Just because the material was terrible does not mean that Gretchen Lodge was not impressive; as a character-driven piece, this film asked a lot of her, and the entire emotional core of the film rested on her shoulders. Ultimately, I think she turned in a convincing performance that was truly painful to watch.
Lovely Molly is a film that I would not wish on anyone. If I could take the person I hated most in this world and do anything to them, I would stop short of forcing them to watch this movie – it would be too cruel. One of the main tenements of horror is to create a sense of discomfort; it is supposed to disorient you and make you feel unsafe – that’s part of the thrill. But there are ways to create unease in a narrative that do not serve the audience, but rather exploit them. Lovely Molly chooses the latter, and to its credit, commits to making it as miserable an experience as humanly possible.
Rating: ZERO out of 5. I hate this movie.
Scariness level: It’s honestly not even scary, it’s UPSETTING. They are not the same feeling, and abuse of narrative to upset your audience shouldn’t be confused with horror.
Violence level: Plenty. Animal mutilation, murder, CHILD MURDER, perverted priests, implied bestiality. Name any horrible thing you can think of and it was probably included in this.
Bechdel test: Passes, actually. She has frequent conversations with her sister, many involving her former drug addiction.
Mako Mori test: All of the male characters were peripheral in this, so I think it probably does. However, everything in the film seemed to revolve either around her father or her husband, so I don’t know how strong of a pass it is.