Tonight's the night to chat about the brutal, weird, upsetting, and fascinating gem that is American Mary. Quick TW: sexual assault will be discussed. Remember: if you didn't get a chance to watch it, it's online — feel free to jump in tomorrow morning!
Questions for discussion (remember, you can add your own!):
- Were you ever scared by this movie, or were you grossed out/unsettled/creeped out? What got to you the most?
- The thread of "indebtedness" runs through the entire story. Do you see this story as being driven by debt? Money?
- For many of us, the most upsetting scene was likely the rape scene. However, it is near immediately juxtaposed with a scene in which the rapist is subjected to Mary's revenge. How does this quick inversion of control affect your viewing of the movie? Did it change how you thought about the (horrifying) rape scene?
- When Mary performs her first real surgery (the lifesaving incident notwithstanding), Ruby says to her that she had none of her surgeries to become a "sexual object." The sexuality of altered bodies is obviously a hinge in the plot. How did you respond to the non-sexual "object-ification" of bodies throughout the movie?
- The trope I liked most in this film was "the doctor as monstrous." This was illustrated in large ways throughout the plot, but also in small ones — the scene in the first hour where Mary has to go tell a family that their father has just died, for example. This, of course, amplifies along with Mary's transformation. How did the tension between doctor as savior/doctor as destroyer shape the film? Is what Mary does art, or science? ("What you do is art," says Beatress.)
- "First, do no harm" is one of the fundamental principles of medical ethics. In what ways does American Mary challenge conventional understanding of this maxim?
- How do you feel about the character of Billy?
- The constant callbacks to the strip club, coupled with Mary's initial interview, frame sexuality as a skill. How does this resonate through the story?
- "Good surgeons don't make any mistakes," says Dr. Grant. Does this idea drive each character's rise and fall?
- What were the most disturbing images from the film, for you?
- What did you think about the final act of the film? Was Mary's development too abrupt, or did it come naturally? How about the conclusion of her story — what do you make of the last, dialogue-less, sequence? Did you sympathize with Mary from the beginning? Was there a point at which you stopped sympathizing with her, if you did?
- This movie was directed by women, the Soska sisters. Does knowing that change your response to the film?