Four years ago, I attended the 1996 IFFM (Independent Feature Film Market) at New York City’s Angelika Film Center. Here, hundreds of small and insignificant independent filmmakers exhibit their films, desperately hoping for distributor recognition. “Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore” is one of the many that got overlooked. However, with such a provocative title, many such as myself clamored into the theater to see the film, expecting some real hard-hitting underground fare. The end result was a fairly painful experience. Neither erotic nor appealing in any sense, it was just an overly long, exceedingly talky, preachy film, something between a bad after-school special and a feminist version of “Clerks”.
In the years since, “Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore” has become something of a cult favorite. San Francisco-based Filmmaker Sarah Jacobson has been schlepping the 16mm film print to every film festival and indie venue she can find. Amy Taubin, Roger Ebert, and Jon Waters are among the film’s principal admirers. I began to wonder if I’d somehow misinterpreted the film. “Is this really a sincere, heartfelt tale of teenage sexual awareness?” After recently watching it another time around, my memories held up. It’s still the same bleak, poorly produced piece of dredge that I remembered.
Mary Jane is a 17-year-old part-time worker in an art house movie theater. After her first time having sex, she’s very disappointed. It hurts. Bi Sexual Co-Worker Erika instructs her on the path to achieve an orgasm. With her advice in mind, Mary Jane discovers the secrets of successful masturbation. Mary Jane’s other mentor is the openly Gay Movie Theater Manager. Unlike the vulgar Erika, Dave’s attitude towards sex is sweet, sensitive, and compassionate. With both schools of thought, Mary Jane is then inspired to go off on an inward journey of finding herself and all that stuff.
The storyline offers an excellent opportunity for an insightful study of sexuality; however, whatever potential it may have had was totally squandered in the shooting. Nothing in this entire film is remotely convincing. Not only are the performances pretty damn awful but the production values are downright pathetic. The film seems to have been photographed with a camera that had a broken lens, flawed lighting, and sets looking as though they were constructed in someone’s living room. But at least there’s amusement to be found in just how bad it is, and that’s about all that this film has going for it.