Synopsis: Thirteen years after a humiliating high-school episode of prom datus interuptus, angst-driven Ted (Ben Stiller) is still crazy in love with Mary (Cameron Diaz). Hoping for a second chance at wooing the girl of his dreams, he hires sleazy private dick Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) to track her down. However, after taking one look at Mary, Healy decides he wants her for himself. Before long, Mary’s suitors are engaged in a “hair-raising” battle for her affections, and soon, the fur really flies…right out the window!
“His friends would say stop whining, they’ve had enough of that.
His friends would say stop pining, there’s other girls to look at.
They’ve tried to set him up with Tiffany and Indigo,
But there’s something about Mary that they don’t know.
Mary, there’s just something about Mary.”
‘There’s Something About May’ is a comedy about stalkers. Say what you will, pooh-pooh it all you want, but the fact remains that the core theme is stalking – in this case the inexplicable obsession of a handful of men for the same woman: Mary.
Now, not all obsession translates to stalking. But, in this case, there are plenty of arguments in favour of listing the aforementioned theme as such: these guys go to extreme lengths to find, observe, follow, befriend and infiltrate the life of their object-of-affection.
The picture is disturbing enough that I found the film slightly off-putting when I first saw it. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I was with a female friend of mine because, not only am I already susceptible to anything related (having had my own obsessive “fan” before, and knowing others who have as well ), but I was more acutely so in that context.
Stalking is no laughing matter: it can not only disrupt one’s life, but it shakes up one’s feelings of personal freedom and safety at once – not to mention the worry and stress it can cause to the victim and his/her friend and family. Making light of such a traumatic situation really isn’t self-evident and, truth be told, I don’t really know what would constitute a sensitive approach.
All I know is that I’m not 100% sure that the Farelly brothers even cared about being mindful when they approached this subject. As with their previous films, it seems to me that they were more inclined to push boundaries, to shock, to touch on subjects or elements that were once taboo, that were never discussed except behind closed doors or in hushed tones. They’re hardly PC filmmakers (case-in-point: ‘Shallow Hal’).
But that was also part of the appeal. The one thing I also recall quite clearly about ‘There’s Something About Mary’, is just how crude they got with all their sexual references. Until ‘There’s Something About Mary’, I had not seen anything like it in mainstream Hollywood cinema; these guys had all sorts of references to oral sex, masturbation, bodily fluids, sex toys, you name it.
And that’s just this picture. They cover a lot more in their other films.
It had left quite an impression on me because, not only am I totally fascinated with human sexuality (I even wanted to study sexology in University!), but it was then fresh and quite hilarious. Ridiculous, most certainly (mistaking jizz for hair gel? Really? Getting a whole penis caught in a zipper? Seriously? ), but nonetheless so obscenely funny that it’s downright unforgettable.
Their shtick doesn’t just revolve around lewd and crude humour, thankfully, so there were a lot of other gut-wrenching moments, and even my friend thought that it was notable enough; she and I had fun. We discussed the whole stalker theme, the jokes made at the expense of the intellectually-challenged and the physically-impaired, agreed that these were very touchy, but repeatedly lost our composure revisiting some of the most outlandish parts of the film, such as the dog resuscitation sequence.
Unsurprisingly, the film made a mark with a number of other audiences – it sold a lot of tickets worldwide and even garnered its share of critical acclaim. This may very well be due to the fact that Peter and Robert Farrelly’s style of humour was still relatively new on the scene, having only dished out ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and ‘Kingpin’ by that point. For good or bad, having broken down numerous barriers, their films would rarely meet this type of massive success thereafter.
For me, this was one of the last times that I found Cameron Diaz intriguing. My eyes fell out of my head when I first saw her in ‘The Mask’ but, by this point, she had become just some skinny girl with a sunny disposition and a Joker-like grin. I’d seen better. As for Ben Stiller, this is the only film of his that I actually enjoy. Dammit, I want to like him, but his starring vehicles don’t make me laugh at all. I’ve tried time and again, but I just don’t get it (however, I am a HUGE fan of ‘The Cable Guy’, which he directed).
Still, I continue to have fond memories of ‘There’s Something About Mary’, even though it doesn’t nearly have the same allure as it once did for me. When I watch it now, I still laugh quite a lot – even if it hasn’t quite become a classic in the same way that ‘Life of Brian‘, ‘The Big Lebowski’ or ‘Grosse Pointe Blank‘ have. Some films are smart enough to poke at my funny bone from multiple angles and are clever enough to keep me stimulated well after the jokes should have had their run.
Ted: “I think I’m just going to quit while I’m ahead.”
Mary: “You’re not that far ahead, Ted.”