03rd Feb2020

Nicolas Cage Appreciation Society: Mandy (2018)

by Chris Thomas

Oh, Mandy. Well, you kissed me and stopped me from shaking.
And I need you today. Oh, Mandy!

Lots of fun things have been said about the life, and the career of Nicholas Cage. He came from Hollywood royalty to be feted for his early works, such as Leaving Las Vegas before surviving a string of comically (and fascinatingly) bad performances in awful films have put his whole career up to be dismissed. The trouble is, his casually frantic facial expressions and voice often cause his performances to go all the way up to 11 in the first few minutes of a picture, and once you have done that you are leaving nowhere to go. People love to watch a successful and rich person’s career implode, but in Cage’s case it is genuinely interesting, how can he be so good and then so bad? A particularly hilarious, and awful performance can be found in the remake of The Wicker Man. If you haven’t seen it, or the internet memes, please go and watch it, treat yourself.

However, no matter what he does, how bad it gets, we will always have Vegas, and now, we will always have Mandy.



Director: Panos Cosmatos | Writers: Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Panos Cosmatos
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy

If you have seen a piece written by me before, you will be aware I am not prone to “gush”. Indeed, the gush flush may be bust. However, Mandy is, possibly the best film I have seen in years.

We are in 1983, Red (Cage) and his girlfriend, Artist, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) are living in the “Shadow Mountains” in the Pacific Northwest. Mandy and Red are reclusive and the script hints that they have both led extremely troubling lives. It seems they are both damaged, but they have found each other, and I get a real sense they just enjoy being in each other’s company. They enjoy the simple things in life, and they have found a way to live.

Sadly, as Mandy walks home from her cashier job, she is spotted by Jeremiah Sand, the leader of the cult, the Children of the New Dawn. Jeremiah decides that he must have Mandy and thus hires a demonic drug courier biker gang to abduct her. Paying for it with blood.

The cult has nods to the Manson Family. The leader, superbly played by Linus Roache puts on the record he made as a singer, song writer before his cult days as part of his attempted seduction of Mandy. The performance of Roache and the other cult members really must be seen, they have an extremely interesting dynamic. Jeremiah is a petty, awful child at heart trying to pretend he is a messiah. When his mask slips, he gets filled with rage. Mandy is heavily drugged by the cult matriarch – which includes what they call “the cherry on the top” (a sting from a monstrous, huge, Gigeresque black wasp they keep in a jar). His clumsy attempts to seduce the heavily drugged Mandy prompt a huge amount of black laughter from Mandy. In front of the fellow cult members no less. This prompts the rage in Jeremiah to boil up, the bad thing happens as Red is forced to watch. Almost all the cultists faces leer or fawn with delight at their beloved leader or the terrible act itself. Only one, silently cries tears for this awful injustice.

Despite the premise – Hero has bad thing done to him, is upset, gets revenge on bad guys being extremely fitting here, I hesitate to call this an “exploitation film”. Part of the reason is, the director (Panos Cosmatos) is just so incredibly good. The bad thing is never leered at or glamorized in any way by the film maker, it hurts to see it, an awful tragedy. As soon as things go bad the walls between drugs, art and reality start to get awfully thin. A gonzo, prog-rock revenge nightmare, and that is a very good thing.

The film soars on beautiful pink neon, blood splattered wings.

Cage is superb as the increasingly drugged up, hallucinating and unhinged Red, the horror and the violence racks up , the bodies pile up but through it all I can still feel the awful tragedy that caused it all. In the shadow Mountains, the acting style of Nicholas Cage makes perfect sense.

In the words of Barry Manilow… “Oh! Mandy”


In an interview with GQ Magazine, Nicolas Cage stated that when Panos Cosmatos first approached him to be in the film, he wanted him to play the role of the cult leader, Jeremiah Sand, but Cage said he wanted to play Red instead. Panos told him this was a story about old age vs youth and he didn’t think he was right to play Red. A year later, through Elijah Wood, they met again to talk about the film, and this time they explored more in detail the themes of love and the loss of love within the film and they discussed those same themes within their personal lives and by this time, everything just clicked and Panos then felt totally confident in Cage’s playing Red.


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