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Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore

Not rated, 98 min. Directed by Sarah Jacobson. Starring Linda Gerstein, Greg Cruikshank, Beth Ramona Allen, Andrew David Deangelo, Chris Enright, Marny Snyder, Brandon Stepp, Jello Biafra.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 20, 1998

Rough-hewn and drenched in DIY aesthetics, Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore is a girl's coming-of-age story that's fresh and unlike most other coming-of-age stories we've seen on the screen so far. Which is not to say that Mary Jane's fictional situation is in itself unique -- merely the film's honest, onscreen portrayal of a girl's first experience with sex. Expectations and reality egregiously collide in the film's opening sequence during which Mary Jane (Gerstein) unceremoniously loses her virginity to an insensitive and callow young stud. Framed in a high overhead shot, we witness Mary Jane's discomfort and dismay as she lies pinned under the thrusting stallion, who has so thoughtfully spread out a blanket in the local cemetery to serve as the bed for his date's deflowering. But in an instant, we see that Mary Jane's not a “lie-back-and-take-it” kind of gal. She calls a halt to the proceedings and has her date drive her back to the party, where she ruminates about the mysteries of sex and why she seems to be the only person not privy to its celebrated delights. The party is an after-hours thing at the place where she works -- a seedy, alternative movie theatre which provides the setting for a large portion of the film. Mary Jane is a smart, suburban high-schooler who commutes into the city to work amid the coolness of this theatre and its distinctive, post-punk personnel. One by one, her friends and fellow employees share with her their own shabby “first time” stories. Male or female, their sexual initiations all seem marked by disappointments in which the actuality hardly ever lives up to all its advance billing. Amusing, evocative, sweet, and engaging, these stories strip the glossy veneer off the silver screen's saccharinization of sex. Jacobson's film presents kids talking just as you suspect they do in real life, while it uncovers forthright, new ways to portray a girl's first-time sexual experiences that do not involve soft-focus, bittersweet memories or fond recollections of youth spent. Armed with these tips from her friends -- particularly a funny and instructive rap by punk gal Ericka (Allen) about the hip pleasures of masturbation -- Mary Jane is on the road to sexual delight, only this time she is in the driver's seat. Gerstein's natural and unruffled performance as Mary Jane is an essential part of the film's charm, a quality made all the more prominent as the film is rather short on plot and what there is, is awfully contrived; Mary Jane consists mostly of conversations and static camerawork. But the unabashed nature of the dialogue and the novelty of the no-frills, all-grrrls perspective busts more than a few cinematic cherries.
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