Neil Bahadur’s review published on Letterboxd:
The last time I saw this film I wrote, "Mary never appears to be much more than a cypher..but maybe that's the point, seeing her through the eyes of these men who believe they're in love with her, using her kindness as reason to idealize her, and thus objectify her." Firstly, it's not "maybe" the point, it totally is, and if I hadn't noticed that more clearly before it's possibly a repercussion of this movie being almost too.....funny. OR: possibly I was foolish enough to fall into the same trap! But behind the heightened silliness of this movie is a very acute one about the invisible line between idealization and objectification.
Dave Kehr writes, Diaz's Mary is a "fantasy of flawlessness," a males "dreamy hallucination of every girl that got away.." But while Kehr's enthusiasm for the film is admirable, such writing actually plays into the illusion the film is trying to dispel - and furthermore with each successive viewing, Mary seems more and more a fully rounded character, sincere and human, humble & naive. It's rather all the men in this film who are caricatures, and like the best of them, they reveal ugly truths which so often enter everyday living translucently.
Every male character in the film who attempts to court Mary's affection do so on the basis that she fits the criteria of the 'fantasy of flawlessness,' and attempt to falsify their personas not to show how much they are like her, but how much she is like *them*. And while these are after-all, caricatures (indeed, the one man in the film who doesn't attempt to court Mary ends up eaten by his own pet snake) the film equally (if uh, quite humorously) works as a play-by-play of deceptions, Matt Dillon's Pat Healy particularly crafting an entire false persona by the slow process of careful study of behavioural traits & nuances. But what's truly striking is actually Stiller's Ted, who crafts a deception even though he doesn't have to, that he willingly chooses to deceive Mary because he believes its the only way he'll regain her affection. The most unsettling thing about this film is that lying is seen as a romantic necessity.
But I'm not even scratching the surface here, furthermore there's little here which implies how fucking hysterical this movie is. I don't really know how to write about comedy! But having watched bits and pieces recently of later Farrelly works like The Three Stooges & Dumb and Dumber To (though they're almost equally as great as this in how ridiculous those two are) I realized how much I underestimated how brilliantly structured all the jokes in this movie are. The "you know...rest-areas are homosexual hangouts," the revelation of "Woogie", I don't know how many more, all find their punch-lines well after you've forgotten about them - yet they're so finely constructed and integrated into the narrative that it forces you to remember the tiny detail which you stopped caring about. It's one of the most perfectly "written" films I've ever watched.
Also I may as well address the oft-misinterpreted portrayal of handicapped persons of which criticism is frequently levelled towards the Farrelly's (though if you're going through their work you're probably well aware of this). As Bobby Farrelly stated in the past: "The problem is not that we look down on these people, but rather that we look up at them and feel that they are better than us.... we revere them." One realizes how rarely disabled people are even represented in mainstream cinema, if not movies in general (and how rarely they are even played by those with disabilities!) - and moreover how the disabled in these films often prove themselves far more smarter and kinder than their counterparts who are lucky enough to not have these social disadvantages. There's one truly sweet, lovely moment in this film, and it's where Diaz/Mary is handing out lunches to her brother and her friends. And just in writing this I'm realizing how Tucker/Norman attempts to court Mary by feigning a physical disability!
IMO - this is the best Farrelly bros film...
"Well, uh..I may have been blowing a little smoke up your ass there, Mary!"