Ah, librarianship. My glamorous profession, full of neatly ordered shelves of books, incredibly vague reference questions, and…parties with stripper cops? Obviously it’s free for all month on the blog, and obviously we’re rounding out the month with a modern library classic.
’90s New York party girl Mary’s eyes are opened up to the exciting world of librarianship after a run-in with the law.
After being arrested on multiple counts related to the club she’s running out of her New York apartment, Mary relies on her godmother, Judy, to bail her out. Judy, who witnessed the shenanigans of both mother and daughter, is taking no nonsense. To earn some cash (and pay Judy back for bail), Mary begins working with her godmother, a librarian.
Though Mary hates the job and is scorned by her coworkers, she is stubbornly determined to prove to Judy that she can follow through. In the evenings, Mary is still keeping up her party girl reputation and is working to get her DJ roommate Leo connected with a promoter. Meanwhile, her ex Nigel (Liev Schreiber???) is trying to win her back, and gay bff Derrick is determined to track down his one night stand dreamboat, Karl.
As Judy tries to bond with Mary by inviting her to dinner, Mary is more concerned about meeting up with falafel cart owner and aspiring teacher Mustafa. However, after a fight with her godmother, Mary forgets all about her date, opting instead to get shit-faced and conquer the Dewey Decimal System once and for all.
After a few days and some extensive research help, Mustafa forgives Mary for standing him up. When things heat up in the stacks, Mary forgets to lock up the library properly, and some out-of-print books are destroyed by rain. Judy, also ticked off about the sex in the library thing and tangentially going on a rant about literacy, decides this is the last straw and fires Mary. Add to this an eviction notice, and Mary has hit a decidedly low point.
Deciding to do what she knows best, Mary throws a massive party (which has a rather cringey Middle Eastern theme). This seems to be a sign that Mary should embrace her reputation as a party girl and become a promoter, but she’s still haunted by visions of Melvil Dewey.
Is it possible for this party girl to become a librarian and keep dancing ’til the dawn?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’m torn between a 3.5 and a 4 rating–because this film appreciates librarianship and all of the different paths people take to the profession, I’m rounding up. Mary is anything but the stereotypical librarian, and this is a strength; she applies the Dewey Decimal System to Leo’s records and takes a creative approach to answering reference questions. Also Judy’s rant about the undervaluing of the library field and Dewey’s misogyny is so on-brand for librarians.
Beyond librarianship, we must absolutely acknowledge the incredible style of Parker Posey’s character here. While her fashion sense takes a lot of cues from the ’90s, her bold style is in its own category. I’m really obsessed with a green skirt suit that makes a couple of appearances.
There are some ways this film hasn’t aged well: Mary has some weird fetish-y Middle Eastern fantasies, and she throws the f word around a couple of times–the one that is a horrible slur. But honestly, while this is very much a slice of life of ’90s New York, it has a freshness that makes it feel quite recent. Mary is a more complex character than we’re initially led to believe, inhabiting identities in disparate places in a way that few female characters in film can even 20+ years later. And this film was so ahead of the game when it comes to falafel and chickpea-based foods in general. I approve.