‘You are a vicious snowflake…’
When I think of Nic Cage, and I often do, it is in the context of wacky YouTube videos and insane performances. Cage is clearly an acquired taste but I have definitely acquired him. I would probably go as far to say that I have never seen a Nic Cage movie that I haven’t enjoyed on some level. Whether that be because his films are genuinely good (Leaving Las Vegas), a whole lot of fun (The Rock) or just plain, goddamn ridiculous (The Wicker Man). When I heard that his latest opus was a psychedelic revenge movie, I was fully on-board for classic Nic Cage nonsense. In the end, Mandy wasn’t quite what I expected…
Red Miller (Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live an enchanted life in a secluded forest. They read fantasy novels, they stare lovingly into each others eyes, all is well in their world. That is until wild eyed cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) rolls into town and all hell breaks loose.
I should start by saying that this is one of the most bizarre pieces of cinema involving a major actor that I have ever seen. The story is linear and easy to follow but the whole thing is filmed through a sludgy haze of psychedelic drugs. People will often comment that something is ‘on acid’, normally used erroneously to describe anything that is slightly outlandish or strange. Mandy is one of the only films I can remember that does actually feel like a trip. For better or for worse. This makes it feel like you are always squinting, always unable to follow grasp what is happening. While this technique is certainly effective, it does become wearing after a while, particularly in the claustrophobic, overwhelming first act.
That being said, when Mandy becomes a more straightforward exploitation/revenge flick it really excels. Drawing from the original video nasties such as I Spit On Your Grave and The Last House on the Left crossed with heavy metal videos and hard fantasy, Mandy wears its numerous influences on its tie dyed sleeve whilst still being fundamentally unique. You wont see a film like this in 2019 or in 2029, or any other year you care to mention.
To bring this review full circle, lets talk Cage. It is often forgotten amidst his demented yelling and cheshire cat grin that Cage has the ability to be a fantastic actor. This is one of his better turns as it enables him to use his over the top persona to fascinating effect. He is restrained when he needs to be restrained but he is also crazy when he needs to be crazy, in that inimitable way of his. It’s a spellbinding and cathartic performance that ensures that Mandy never becomes too inaccessible.
Mandy is a fever dream. It’s a half-remembered night terror that becomes a muffled scream with the rising of the dawn. It is a bad trip that runs screaming into the crimson sky. It’s a Norwegian black metal video gone wrong. This is a film that will be equally loved and loathed and in a way that in itself makes Mandy a huge success.