REVIEW: 'The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater', a comedy-drama feature by Binary Star Pictures
Updated: Sep 8
With only 30 days to repay a massive loan, a disgraced art historian is forced into a scandalous scheme: win the heart of, and then extort, the Episcopal priest avoiding her like loose glitter. When she discovers him hiding the world's greatest lost masterpiece, will she betray the heroic man who believes in her genius, or fall for him and doom herself to a custom pair of concrete stilettos?
"Lorrisa & I decided that we had seen FAR too many films with the same scenarios and characters, and that we would try to create something that movie viewers hadn't seen before - a film with an unusual story, using characters viewers hadn't yet experienced. We also wanted to convey some of the ideas that mean a lot to us as a couple, namely feminism, gay rights, forgiveness, art history, toxic masculinity, issues of spirituality and finding your place in the world, and finally, finding that one person who helps to make sense of things in a very confusing world. We are proud that we were able to add those deeper elements amid the jokes and shenanigans of a very literate and witty script. We feel that The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater accomplished our goal of making a highly entertaining RomCom that has abundant laughs, yet has deeper meaning for movie viewers who enjoy looking for metaphors and allegory in a film."
- C.J. Julianus (director)
Outside the Spotlight says: A priest, a gangster and a dominatrix walk into an art auction. The plot of this movie could be made into a cheesy joke however while The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater may seem a little ridiculous at first glance, the result is actually a rather enjoyable off-beat comedy-drama. The first image that appears is a man tied up with a ball gag in his mouth and so TMoMM certainly prepares you for a rather quirky affair. Telling the story of a dominatrix who has been involved with some shady people and thus landed in the position of this profession, Ava is an art school graduate and almost PhD holder who is looking for a way out. Said gangster happens to be her ex-boyfriend, Borris, who introduced her to her current career and said priest, Father Radovan, is someone who she's offered big bucks to seduce. Then there's her best friend. All in all, pretty wild stuff.
Written and directed by husband-and-wife duo C.J and Lorissa Julianus respectively, The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater has a smooth, saturated feel like a 70s cult horror movie with a little, but not all of the campiness. The character of Ava, portrayed also by Lorissa Julianus is the highlight of the film with a sultry, leather suit-wearing femme fatale-ity way about her. Whilst alot of this film does feel rather familiar, however there's enough here that is marches to its own beat. It's an interesting point-of-view tale from the eye of a character type we don't see very often. There's plenty of movies revolving around, say, sex workers but Ava, as she makes clear multiple times, is not an object, but a genius, keeping an extremely professional conduct even down to a thorough contract which her clients are presented with before any proceedings occur.
The film does seem to comment on how we view a dominatrix as much the same thing and may look down on them because of it. Multiple times, men treat Ava with not-so-much respect and perhaps also comments on our fascination with power and some men's lust for powerful women. Ava, being the strong, independent type with a lot more going on than it may seem, easily corrects their misinterpretations. Also being a certified genius when it comes to art history, Ava carries herself with much the same suave and sassy confidence as a Selina Kyle (and has the suit to match) and her face so expressive that she could probably deliver an entire script with no words. Ava is not all seriousness though; full of one-liners and a few small quirks that keep the movie fun. An example being that her text message tone is the various sounds of people in pain. She also uses voice to text which again could be a metaphor for her control over things because it's miraculously correct every time and, when does that ever happen?
The cast is small, consisting of just four main characters who occupy most of the screen time. In addition to Ava, Mickey O’Sullivan as Father Radovan is great too. Both get their chance to shine individually however their best work comes towards the movie’s heated climax. Borris, portrayed by Adam Christopher and Ava's best friend portrayed by Shannon Brown are both enjoyable, if not a little cheesy, but are perhaps the least memorable aspects of the affair. What none of the characters are lacking however is development. The layers peel back like onions as we slowly discover more and more about each of their lives and how they came to be here. Why is the priest such a knowledgeable fighter? Why is the city mayor promoting cage fights on the weekends? Seriously, how is Ava's voice-to-text always correct?!
When it comes to clichés, of which there are certainly a few in its rom-com tropes and its character tropes, TMoMM is certainly aware of what it is, often making fun of itself during the process. Having said that, this is certainly not a film that lacks intelligence. It definitely requires you to listen and one that might even prompt you hitting the rewind button to make sure you're getting all of the details. Not to say it's particularly difficult to follow but probably isn't the type of film that the causal viewer can occasionally check Facebook with.
An underground fight club at the halfway mark sets up for a change in tone from rom-com to drama and eventually even thriller territory which, despite some genuine laugh-out-loud moments in the first half, it is arguably better at. It's during this half that the cast really showcases their abilities (remember that "heated" climax I mentioned?). The action and fight choreography leaves a bit to be desired but is just about brutal enough to be satisfying although some of it ultimately feels somewhat out of place. Considering it only happens a few times in nearly two hours though, it's hardly distracting.
Overall, The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater is an enjoyable ride and one that'll surely keep you entertained and its incorporating of multiple genres keeps it from losing its momentum. Be sure to stick around for the credits for some outtakes!
-About the director-
C.J. Julianus is a long-time director and producer of live theater throughout the Chicago area, and along with his wife and muse, Lorrisa Julianus, established Binary Star Pictures, LLC in 2018. Their first effort, the romantic action comedy, "The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater" is currently enjoying fantastic reviews from viewers and critics alike, averaging 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon Prime. C.J. began his career in the entertainment business while in the U.S. Navy, while stationed in Miami, Florida. From there, he began appearing on television and in print. Upon his return to the Chicago area, he re-ignited his theatrical career, performing with a variety of regional companies. The culmination of his theater work was establishing Theatre-on-the-Hill in Bolingbrook, Illinois as a premium destination for actors who wanted to perform in rarely staged productions, such as Stephen Adly Guirgis' "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" and "Den of Thieves", "A Flea in Her Ear!", "God of Carnage", "End Days", "Escanaba in da Moonlight", and the world premiere of the musical "Zenobia", written by Lorrisa Julianus. During his tenure as President and Artistic Director at Theatre-on-the-Hill, he wrote, produced, and directed numerous corporate videos and movie shorts, skills that have translated directly to producing and directing features. Binary Star Pictures, LLC is accepting script submissions in anticipation of producing feature films on a yearly basis.
Watch the trailer below:
AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS:
Burbank International Film Festival - FINALIST
Mile High Film Fest - WINNER BEST COMEDY
Love Wins Film Fest - OFFICIAL SELECTION
Cannes International Independent Film Fest - SEMI-FINALIST
IndieFest Film Awards - OFFICIAL SELECTION
Where to watch The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater:
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