by Belinda Tobin
A review of Maneater. A film by Missy Jubilee
I began the latest film by Missy Jubilee well prepared.
I had cleared all distractions so I would not miss a word of commentary. I was well caffeinated and ready to ride the intersecting waves of sounds, snips and script.
And my pen and notepad were primed, ready to capture the critique that would be transcribed into this review.
This is Missy’s first feature-length film and the first documentary, so I was eager to examine the outcome of this creative leap.
One hour and twenty-two minutes later, instead of the notebook being filled with scribbles of insight, the page in the notebook contained the following four words:
- Only participants
- Adult themes
And the next half an hour, instead of writing furiously, I spent sitting in stunned silence, trying to process what I had witnessed and sort the multitude of mixed reactions occurring within me.
The Next Day Revelation. One More Word
Even when I rose and resumed my daily duties, every task I entered felt superfluous and superficial.
This is because Maneater is a deep film.
I use the term deep intentionally, and not in a trivial hippy ‘that’s deep man’ kind of way. Maneater is the kind of deep found far below where the darkness begins.
On the surface, Maneater is the story of Treva Throneberry, who, despite being born in 1969, spent the 1990s travelling around the United States, passing herself off as a teenager and spinning numerous webs of false identities geared mainly to gain attention, empathy and inclusion.
While many of the threads were manufactured, the ones that were real were found hanging around her strangled heart, leftover from the trauma of sexual abuse inflicted by her Uncle Billy Ray.
A Lovely Story. A Bit Disturbing Though
The way Missy presents this disturbing story, though, is entrancing.
She has crafted small grabs from over 350 different films and blended them with provocative text and a compelling soundtrack.
The sparkle of the sensory experience is the ingenious diversion Missy uses to prevent you from realising that you have actually descended beyond the observer realm and are now a participant in the darkness.
The Promulgation of Perverse Power in a Grimy Adult Mess
One extended grab in particular, which could be described as gratuitous, provides time to think about each person’s role in promulgating perverse power.
Watching the lengthy interchange between a naked woman and her photographer, each of us is
called to question even small ways we prey on others; weaknesses to gain our own desires – and how the perspectives of victim and voyeur are easily exchanged.
And while considering this interplay, the observer is also transformed into a participant in this grimy adult mess.
That is why there are no observers for this film, only participants.
Adult Themes. Not for the Kiddies
The fact that I wrote adult themes on the notepad should probably elicit the response ‘no dah’
Maneater is R rated, and there are scenes containing nudity and sexual
acts, true to the Treva’s modus operandi of employing sex as the lure for her prey.
But it was not this simple fact that led to the notes taken.
It reminded me that while we were watching this film with the eyes of adults, the original script was started when Treva was a child and adapted by the author to each new context.
This is why Maneater cannot be seen simply as a film about the adult concepts of sex and subterfuge.
It also portrays the chaotic repercussions of childhood sexual abuse and
dives into the complex aetiology of serial sex offenders.
Doing so creates a whole story, a real story, a respectful story, and not just convenient and simplistic judgments of right and wrong.
The Shallow Notion of Sex
Sure, Maneater’s adult themes deal with the shallow notion of sex but descend much further into the complexity of the human psyche.
It displays the harsh consequences of deception and violence, but also acknowledges the cause:
Monsters and saints
are just the result
of different childhood experiences
inflicted on blank canvases-Missy Jubilee
However, Maneater does not condone any of the fraud or brutality conducted by the characters in Treva’s story.
Instead, this film calls on us to think about the actions that have shaped our own lives, for better or worse.
Maneater challenges the viewer to see Treva and Billy Ray as promulgations of fear and powerlessness – emotional states that we too wrestle with and respond to in a multitude of maladaptive ways.
I have no insight into the process of deciding documentary nominations for the Oscars.
However, I do feel that if Maneater is on this list, it would be introduced as a film that has redefined the documentary genre.
Maneater, it would be reported, does not just tell a story but transports every viewer deep into the darkness of Treva’s story.
It is a film that creates a flux between voyeur and victim, adult and child, reality and fiction, cause and effect, and in doing so, creates insight and understanding.
In this way, Missy’s film Maneater may be the gift to the world that Treva never got to give.
Whether it wins an award or not, the boldness of Missy’s leap and the thematic and aesthetic richness of the landing needs to be congratulated.
- Degree of difficulty = 10
- Execution = 10.
Watch This Film Only If…
You are ready to be vulnerable, captured and challenged.