Updated: Sep 12, 2022
Let me start by saying that I am generally not a fan of romantic comedies. Like action films, romantic comedy as a genre is one of those feel-good genres that are extremely formulaic. Still, this approach manages to sell tickets. But while I’m not a fan of this genre, there are a few exceptions that break that mold. Does The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater join the exclusive ranks of my rom-com club?
Ava Moriarty (played by Lorrisa Julianus) is a failed art historian-turned dominatrix who wishes to be seen as more than her occupation. One day, she is faced with a massive loan of $720,000.82 that she must pay off in 30 days. To do so, she is forced to extort money from a Serbian pastor, Father Radovan (played by Mickey O’Sullivan) of an Episcopal church by Boris, her ex who happens to be a Russian mobster. However, things begin to go awry when she slowly begins to develop feelings for him. This forces her to decide between either completing her mission, or listening to her heart.
Now while most romantic comedies are supposed to be funny, I usually don’t find them so. Mainly because their jokes happen to be very cookie-cutter and often derived from the misfortunes of a character’s misfortunes. In the case of The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater, I was laughing in the first four minutes of the film. I really enjoyed how the film was self-aware and wasn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, much like The Lost City. My favorite moments include Ava’s various ringtones for her clients being their moans of pleasure during her services. Additionally, I loved her inner narration making fun of her life. Her cynical inner narration is so relatable for someone who feels down-and-out.
This film at first feels like Pretty Woman. However, as I kept watching, I found it to be so much more. Unlike Pretty Woman, this film does a much better job portraying women, specifically sex workers. While Ava is a dominatrix, she is never shown to be a “special” or “pure” sex worker like Vivian from Pretty Woman. She never doubted her own ability, rather she understands her own self-worth. Ava is confident and is unafraid of confronting men who treat her with disrespect. This brings me to another aspect of the film which I really enjoyed: the humanization of sex workers. Throughout the film, men treat Ava with disdain upon realizing that she is a dominatrix. However, what they didn’t know is that she is indeed a highly intelligent individual and that her occupation doesn’t define her.
Unlike so many rom-coms in Hollywood, Ava’s relationship with Radovan is slow and gradual. The two meet when Ava attempts to offer her services to him, and he rejects her. After she is forced to extort money from him to pay off her debt, she begins to develop feelings for him. Eventually, Radovan begins to see her as more than just a dominatrix, but rather a complex and highly intelligent art historian. Unlike most men in rom-coms, Radovan respects and treats Ava as a person, rather than just a trophy to achieve. As such, he never resorts to cringe worthy tactics of love, such as stalking Ava to know her interests or her whereabouts. It’s so refreshing to see a healthy relationship in film, as most rom-coms and romance films in general show a plethora of toxic red flags that we often normalize in real life relationships.
Besides the story and themes, I really enjoyed the performances by both Lorissa Julianus and Mickey O’Sullivan. Lorissa Julianus does a great job as the badass, no-nonsense Ava Moriarty. However, where she truly shines is how she manages to balance that hard exterior with a softer, more introspective side of her. Meanwhile, Mickey O’Sullivan does a pretty convincing Serbian accent, in addition to being very enigmatic when we first meet him. Upon getting to know him better, he becomes a very likable character who places the well-being of others around him before his own.
While some of the special effects may not have been done as well, this doesn’t take you out of the film-watching experience. For example, there was a smoke effect that looked a bit rushed. Additionally, I did have a small issue with the sound mixing, primarily during some of the action sequences. Whenever the characters hit someone or get hit, the impact of the punches sound more like slaps rather than solid hits. However, upon further analysis, the sound effects of the punches do sound more realistic, as opposed to the more “bass-like” sound effects that a lot of big budget Hollywood action films use.
Overall, The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater is a well-made romantic comedy that is not only funny, but also is a prime example of what a healthy relationship looks like. It perfectly balances the humor and heartfelt moments that make you care about the characters. With splendid performances by the cast and clever writing throughout the film, The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater is one of those films that I would not only recommend to lovers of the rom-com genre, but also to fans of cinema and is a film that I will continue to watch and enjoy.