Posted by Holly
Are you looking for something different in your movie watching experience – such as the glorification of Nice Guy syndrome, to the point where the line between “I’m just doing what’s best for you” and outright stalking is uncomfortably thin? Where the exploitation of a teenage girl’s mental anguish is a secondary plot to the way our male hero feels about her mental condition? Then do I have a treat for you.
For your enjoyment, I present Male Privilege: The Motion Picture.
Now I might sound like I’m being facetious in the previous statements, but I’m being honest: it’s really only a mild glossing over of the events in this film. I don’t think I can overstate how awful this story’s attitude is towards women, its romanticization of stalking, and its lack of respect towards consent. I sincerely felt dirty after watching it; it’s that bad.
The story centers on the footage primarily shot by a documentary crew working on a special about Carson, a teenage girl with a heroin addiction. They follow Carson and her family through a staged intervention, and her subsequent attempt at recovery in a detox clinic. The more time they spend with Carson, however, the more they realize that her heroin habit may have just been her method of controlling something much worse residing inside of her.
In looking at the premise, this should be a story about Carson, and her struggle to control the evil that is lurking inside of her by any means necessary. In reality, this is a story about Jason, one of the cameramen for the documentary crew, and his misplaced white knight syndrome. One of his coworkers even asks him, with a laugh, if he is one of those guys that always has to save the girl. It’s presented in a joking way, but it sets the tone for the rest of the film. Everything that Jason does is tinged with the underlying sentiment that he’s doing it to save Carson, and thus has a moral excuse for anything he says or does that is out of line.
Unlike Lake Mungo, a film that also presents as a documentary, but from a respectful distance, this film commits to being exploitative and invasive from the start. Early on, we see two crew members sifting through Carson’s belongings, through her drawers, trying to find anything shocking to include in their footage. Jason balks at this behavior, but participates regardless, and it’s made clear that Carson is unhappy with the presence and behavior of the film crew. It’s the first time you see Jason crossing a personal boundary with her, but it is far from the last time it occurs.
Jason goes through her things again, after she’s been put into the rehab clinic; in fact, he steals from her room, to have the books on demonic possession to study through. It’s okay, because he believes her when she says she’s possessed. He brings heroin into her rehab facility and administers it to her while she seems to be both asleep and in restraints. But it’s okay, because she told him that the drugs were the only thing that kept the demon inside her at bay. After she’s kicked out of detox, due to his actions of bringing drugs inside, he watches her home for days and drives by her house repeatedly to keep tabs on her. But that’s okay, because her parents don’t want him near her, and they don’t understand what’s really happening to her like he does.
That’s only a small sampling, but it gives a pretty clear picture of the kind of story this film is trying to sell. Jason is a misunderstood hero, in an “ends justify the means” kind of way, even when the means are the violation of a young girl’s personal boundaries. At best, you can see Jason as someone who forcibly attempts to fight Carson’s battle against a demon for her, despite not being asked to do so. At worst, he’s a grown man exploiting the vulnerability of a severely mentally ill girl he’s attracted to. Either way, he’s not the kind of hero I want to watch. Unfortunately, his behavior is ultimately rewarded by (kind of) succeeding in his goal, and even the dark twist at the end isn’t enough to make me feel better about that.
And you know what the biggest irony is? When we learn about how Carson became possessed, it’s explicitly given to us that she had verbally invited the demon into her before it took control. That’s right, folks: the demon required Carson’s consent. It’s more than Jason ever asks for.
Even taking a step back from the many problematic aspects of this film, it’s simply not as scary as it wants to be. It lacks the subtlety one might expect from a more competent narrative, and always goes for the “big scare” when it can. It’s not enough to notice something out of the ordinary in the mirror, something that catches your eye and makes you look again. It has to be a giant image of a demon, screaming in your face. It stops being shocking after a couple of attempts, and ultimately starts becoming outright comical.
If you’re looking for a perfect summation of male privilege in cinematic form, or just looking for a demonic possession movie where you can legitimately like the demon more than the hero of the story, you’re in the right place. Otherwise, I’d heavily suggest you skip this one, because it’s unlikely to do anything but make you feel angry. There are better possession movies out there; ones that respect its characters, and its viewer, far more than this does.
Rating: 0.5 out of 5. I only give it this much of a rating, because no film could make me as miserable as Lovely Molly did.
Scariness level: If jump scares are your thing, then you might get a good moment or two out of this, but they’re just so overwrought. This movie didn’t scare me, but if you have any fear of demons and/or possession at all, your mileage may vary.
Violence level: Pretty high in the last fifteen minutes or so. Shooting, stabbing, all kinds of blood and nastiness abounds.
Bechdel Test: Hahahahahaha. Okay, realistically, there are a number of named women in this, and it’s possible there was a passing bit of dialogue between two of them. There was nothing substantial enough to stick in my memory, however.
Mako Mori test: No. No, no, and no. What should have rightfully been Carson’s story was handed over to Jason instead.