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Film / There's Something About Mary

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"His friends would stay stop whining, they've had enough of that
His friends would say stop pining, there's other girls to look at
They tried to set him up with Tiffany and Indigo...
But there's something about Mary that they don't know..."

There's Something About Mary is a 1998 romantic comedy film, directed by the Farrelly Brothers and starring Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon and Ben Stiller.

The story begins in 1985, as awkward and shy high-schooler Ted (Stiller) lands a Prom date with his dream girl Mary (Diaz), only to have it cut short by a painfully humiliating zipper accident.

Thirteen years later, Ted is still in love — maybe even obsessed — with her. On the advice of his best friend Dom (Chris Elliott), he hires sleazy private detective Pat Healy (Dillon) to track her down. Healy finds that she’s an orthopedic surgeon living in Miami but falls in love with the irresistible Mary as well. As the film progresses, Ted and Pat compete for her affections as the roster of other suitors rapidly snowballs.

Among the supporting players are Markie Post as Mary's mother, Keith David as her stepdad, W. Earl Brown as her mentally-challenged brother, Jeffrey Tambor as Healy's even sleazier friend, and a young Sarah Silverman as one of Mary's friends in Florida.

This film contains examples of:

  • '80s Hair: Almost everyone in the prologue has massive hair. Ted's chiropractor, who is bald in the nineties, has long long hair.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: The film does the male version with Chris Elliott's character, since he erupts into grotesque boils when he finally confronts the eponymous Mary. However, as befits the usual gendering of this trope, Chris Elliott's character already has an attractive, entirely subservient wife who does things like spontaneously bake him cookies and give him blowjobs while he watches football. ("Keep your head down, honey!")
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Ted's chiropractor says that Ted has "tender fascial tissue left of L7". There are only 5 lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5), not 7.
  • Attempted Rape: Subverted at the end of the film. It sounds like Woogie is trying to rape Mary, but he's only trying to steal her shoes.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Mary is rather upset and give Ted a well deserved The Reason You Suck speech when she finds out he's been stalking her for so long.
  • Big Bad: Woogie, Mary's high-school ex who has been pining for her for over a decade.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Pat realizes that Mary's neighbor is intercepting his cell phone calls, so he fakes a conversation with a friend about his work with impoverished African children and just generally making him look like the greatest guy on Earth.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Pat, impersonating an architect, meets Mary's friend Tucker, also an architect, who immediately starts grilling him about his work. Eventually it's revealed that Tucker is also an impostor, and that he had pegged Pat as another fake and was trying to catch him in a lie.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: There's no parts that stick out of 1985 Ted's mouth or around his head, but it's still a pretty sizable set even for the 1980's.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: An interesting version at the very end. At the end Seabass reveals that he was only having sex with Magda to get to Mary, and shoots at Ted, hitting one of the Greek Chorus members instead, thus bringing them into the movie proper instead of them just being inframe narrators. Of course it's the final scene in a comedy and for the Rule of Funny, so it has no bearing on the plot.
  • Brick Joke: Magna says she likes to have a banana split after sex. At the end, she and her boyfriend walk into the living room, and guess what she's eating?
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: For all his many faults Pat is a hell of a bloodhound. As well as something of a Manipulative Bastard.
  • The Cameo: "What the hell is Brett Favre doing here?"
  • Camera Sniper: When Pat is tracking Mary.
  • The Chessmaster: Woogie. He advises Ted to hire Pat Healy to find Mary, advises Ted to contact her, drives Ted to Miami and then sends an anonymous letter to get both Ted and Pat out of the way, leaving him free to swoop in and steal her shoes all without Ted suspecting anything. Even his friendship with Ted appears to be an early move in his game.
  • The Chew Toy: Poor Ted gets mauled by a dog, nearly murdered by a hitchhiker, snagged on the lip by a fishhook, and beaten up by Warren. Oh, and then there's the whole zipper incident...
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: The hitchhiker that Ted picks up, who blabs nonsensically about his idea for "7 Minute Abs". Not surprising, since he's a Serial Killer.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Healy: We agreed I wouldn't fuck you, and you wouldn't fuck me until we got this....fuck outta the fuckin' picture!
  • Covers Always Lie: Cameron Diaz doesn't play the protagonist of the film, as the poster suggests.
  • Cringe Comedy: Everybody gets something embarrassing to deal with... even Mary, who thankfully never finds out what the "hair gel" really was.
  • Cultural Translation: Unfortunately averted - non-American viewers might not have understood what was so extraordinarily special about Brett being in love with Mary too. (For those who don't know, Brett Favre is a very famous American Football player.)
  • Curtain Call: Has this in Dance Party Ending.
  • Dance Party Ending: The whole cast singing Build Me Up Buttercup over the credits.
  • Deconstructed Trope: The Dude Magnet and Unwanted Harem see a whole lot of beat-down in this film, mostly by showcasing the "dudes" as a bunch of obsessed maniacs that destroy their own lives and disrupt Mary's just for the sake of the very small chance she will love them back as badly as they love her. Being a Dogged Nice Guy can be seen by other people as creepy (or at least incredibly annoying).
  • Devoted to You: Deconstructed. All the guys Mary attracts, except for Brett, are creeps and weirdos.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Ted. One of the running gags of the film is everybody else using him as the butt of their jokes (up to the point that when Mary finally confesses she loves him Ted's immediate response is asking dejectedly if she's making fun of him) and out of all the stalkers he's the Only Sane Man.
  • Domestic Abuse: Turns out that Woogie married and even has a kid and his wife has no problem gratifying him sexually in a constant basis. He doesn't gives a shit about them, still being obsessed with Mary after so many years.
  • Double Meaning: When Ted is speaking to Dom in the bar he mentions Mary. Dom says "Not Mary again" This is more meaningful as a Rewatch Bonus.
  • Dude Magnet: The entire plot of the film is based on the title character being one of these, although unfortunately only a particular type of men seemed to be attracted to her.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After undergoing massive amounts of humiliation and pain, Ted gets to be with Mary after all.
  • Entitled to Have You: What all the stalkers except for Ted and Brett feel about Mary, with the old guy at the end even going so far as trying to murder Ted for kissing Mary.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Healy and Tucker may be creepy obsessed stalkers, but they're not rapists. When they overhear Woogie seemingly about to assault Mary, they immediately rush to stop him.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Puffy, according to Magda. According to Mary, Puffy just hates men regardless of their motives.
  • Failed a Spot Check: It's revealed at the end that Ted's been failing this for quite a while, when the identity of "Woogie" is revealed: "Dom Wooganowski." [Does 'duh' gesture]
  • Foreshadowing:
    • As Dom walks out of Ted's hotel room, he notices Mary walking into the lobby and ducks out of sight. Why would he do this unless they had some history together?
    • Dom knows about the zipper incident, even though Ted never told him. Dom plays it off as having heard the story secondhand in a Suspiciously Specific Denial ("I was only four towns over").
    • Tucker repeatedly "jokes" about sleeping with Mary. It's later revealed that he's a fraud and a stalker too, and pretty boorish as well.
  • Gay Cruising: Ted stops by a highway rest stop to take a leak, and inadvertently stumbles (literally) on a cruising spot with lots of men engaging in sex with each other.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: The reaction of Mary's mother to Ted during the zipper scene.
  • Greek Chorus: Songwriter Jonathan Richman.
  • Groin Attack: The zipper incident provides the requisite Squick, although it's a self-inflicted accident. There's a more traditional example by the dog later.
    • Pat also sets the dog's crotch on fire by accident while trying to resuscitate him.
  • The Grunting Orgasm: Ted crumples the newspaper when he finishes.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Mary has blond hair and is quite a nice person.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Mary has this effect on all guys in-universe. As the title says, there's something about Mary that drives men crazy: Ted hires Healy to find her, Healy quits his job and moves to Miami for her, Norm creates a fake identity to get close to her and Woogie gets seriously stalkerish around her. Even the old guy who sleeps with Magda was only doing it to get close to Mary.
  • Heel Realization: Ted ultimately realises that his obsession with Mary has ultimately made him little better than any of the other men who have been stalking her (although in his defense, he actually hasn't sunk to the same depths that most of them have) and decides to let her go so she can be happy with someone else.
  • History with Celebrity: Mary's old boyfriend Brett is revealed at the end to be football quarterback Brett Favre.
  • Hostile Hitchhiker: There is a hitchhiking Serial Killer on the loose. The cops find the body he was carrying and peg the main character as a guy who kills hitchhikers, starting a hilarious Mistaken Confession.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Dom has one of these before explaining to Ted why masturbating to alleviate sexual frustration is essential before any big date, leading to the infamous "hair gel" scene.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "You're the worst stalker of us all, man!", said to Ted (who is pretty much the Only Sane Man) who only deceived Mary about accidentally running into her after 13 years of not seeing her, as opposed to the rest actively lying about their identities to Mary and trying to frame the others as criminals for years.
  • I Am One of Those, Too: When Pat tries to impress Mary by pretending to be a suave architect. Cue her architect friend. Who was also only pretending.
  • Implausible Deniability: Pat moves to Miami to follow Mary, and covers it up by telling Ted he's moving there to take a job with Rice-A-Roni.
    Ted: ...Aren't they the "San Francisco" treat?
    Pat: ...They were. They're changing their image.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Ted after the confrontation at Mary's house with Brett Favre.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Ted is confused on how Dom knows about the zipper incident, since he never told him. Dom does a Hand Wave to this by saying he only lived four towns away. This seems like a minor throwaway moment, but comes back later when Dom is revealed to be "Woogie", Mary's high school boyfriend prior to meeting Ted, which also shows how he knew about said incident.
  • Informed Ability: Mary, who is a medical doctor, mistakes semen for hair gel.
  • Ironic Echo: Throughout the movie, everyone takes advantage of Ted's gullibility to jerk him around, only to laugh it off by saying "I'm fucking with you!" when he believes it. At the end, Mary sincerely tells Ted that she'd be happiest with him... and his response, after a few moments, is a miserable, dejected and resigned "You're fuckin' with me, right?"
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Mary attended Princeton University. Her ex-boyfriend "Woogie" also received a scholarship from Princeton.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: At the end, Ted is the only one willing to do this for Mary. Her response? "But I'd be happiest with you".
  • Jerkass: All of the other stalkers, running the whole gamut from manipulating people to spousal abuse to (accidental) pet abuse to all of them using Ted as their toy and fucking around with him (and when Ted decides to leave, they all gang up in trying to convince Mary to let him go) to try to kill Ted when Mary finally decides to be with him.
  • Kafka Komedy: So very much. Ted is a nice enough guy who has his prom ruined in a painful and humiliating way, subsequently gets a bit obsessed with Mary, and has to go through all kinds of other shit before the movie is done.
  • The Lad-ette: Part of Mary's characterization is her combining a love of playing/watching sports and beer with otherwise perfect femininity.
    Mary: Want to come inside and watch SportsCenter?
  • Left the Background Music On: Crossed with Greek Chorus and a Diegetic Soundtrack Usage.
  • Let Me at Him!: Parodied. Ted is suspected of being a twisted Serial Killer by a pair of detectives, but it's in fact a huge mix-up and Ted only ran into the real culprit without even knowing. This starts a Mistaken Confession where Ted casually admits his habit of "picking up hitchhikers". When he says that he might have had up to fifty hitchhikers in his life and makes light of this fact, the more unnerved of the two cops bashes Ted's head into the table in rage.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Everybody is in love with/stalks Mary, including the main character and even football star Brett Favre. Naturally, Mary chooses the main character even over Brett. (She's a Niners fan.)
  • Magical Defibrillator: When Pat has to resuscitate the dog. With an electrical cable.
  • Manchild: "Tucker" is actually a sleazy pizza boy who lives with his parents. Healy also counts to a lesser extent.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: Dom is a firm believer that it is essential for a man to masturbate before any big date, so he has better control of his own libido during it. He explains it to Ted via a Hurricane of Euphemisms:
    Dom: You choke the chicken before any big date, don't you? Tell me you spank the monkey before any big date. Oh my God, he doesn't flog the dolphin before a big date. Are you crazy? That's like going out there with a loaded gun! Of course, that's why you're nervous. Oh, my dear friend, please sit, please. Look, um, after you've had sex with a girl, and you're lying in bed with her, are you nervous? No, you're not, why?
    Ted: Cause I'm tired...
    Dom: Wrong! It's 'cause you ain't got the baby batter on the brain anymore! Jesus, that stuff will fuck your head up! Look, the most honest moment in a man's life are the few minutes after he's blown his load — now that is a medical fact. And the reason for it is that you're no longer trying to get laid, you're actually... you're thinking like a girl, and girls love that.
  • Meaningful Name: Is Mary's middle name Sue?
    • Pat Healy, who is indeed a heel.
    • Norm, who's just a normal guy.
    • Dom who also happens to be the most aggressive and dominant of Mary's stalkers
  • Mistaken Confession: Hitchhiking vs. murder. "How many? In my whole life? I dunno, 15/20? I don't exactly keep track..."
  • Mistaken for Gay: Ted tries to take a piss at a highway rest stop and ends up triggering a sting operation where he is arrested with dozens of gay guys, who also claim that they were "just taking a piss".
  • Mistaken for Masturbating:
    • Ted is daydreaming in the bathroom in the prologue but is accused of masturbating to Mary, who is changing clothes in a room in view.
    • Inverted in a scene when he really has been masturbating and Mary thinks the suspicious substance on his ear is hair gel.
  • Must Make Amends: Healy is visiting Mary's house and accidentally kills her dog. And his reaction to this is to, quite literally, attempt to resuscitate the dog. It works, which probably means that the dog wasn't quite killed. But in an extreme comedy, anything goes.
  • Nice Girl: Mary. She even lets Magda live with her because her (Magda's) husband died and Mary figures she doesn't want to be alone.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Tucker doesn't actually need crutches.
  • Oh, Crap!: "Is gel?"
  • Off on a Technicality: Mary's architect friend, who was actually a pizza delivery boy, claimed Pat was a murderer who stayed in prison for five years until a technicality got him off. It wasn't true.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Implied by Dom when he mentions that he knew about Ted's zipper incident because he was "only" four towns away.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: The interrogation scene. Ted admits he picked up a hitchhiker, but the cops believe he admits he killed a hitchhiker.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Pat, attempting to look like a caring and socially conscious guy: "I work with retards." He also calls them "those goofy bastards."
  • Poor Man's Porn: Ted uses a newspaper brassiere ad before the "Hair gel" scene.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Tucker informs Mary of the fact that Pat Healy never went to Harvard, Healy, whos eavesdropping, launches one.
    Pat Healy: FUCK!
    • "From that moment on, the guys at school looked at me in a whole new light"
    "You're a fucking liar!"
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Step into my office, cuz you're fucking fired!" seems to be an intended one for the hitchhiker before Ted interrupts him by pulling over to take a piss.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: At the very finale, Ted is fed up with the whole mess that he has been involved with thanks to becoming obsessed with Mary and the misery he just brought to her door, and as the Only Sane Man of the whole stalker group calls them all on their stupidity and tells Mary that she can go and be happy and he will no longer bother her (which devastates him, but at least he is able to stop the waterworks up until he actually leaves). This is what makes Mary decide he's the one for her.
  • Red Right Hand: Woogie/Dom has spots on his face.
  • The Reveal: "Who the hell is Woogie?" Ted's friend Dom.
    • And then later in the scene, Mary's saint-like ex-boyfriend "Brett" turns out to be Brett Favre.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The movie drops a lot of subtle hints about everyone's real agenda that doesn't get picked up until the second time around. Regarding the identity of "Brett", you can catch a few early clues, with one friend calling him "Pack Man" note  (although most will audibly interpret it as "Pac-Man" the first time before they know The Reveal) and Mary also talking about how he lived "up north." With Dom, him mentioning Ted's zipper incident — even though he wasn't there and Ted never told him about it — is a big tip-off about his hidden agenda that's usually regarded as a random Hand Wave the first time. He also ducks out of Mary's sight at the hotel, with good reason as we find out later.
  • Scary Black Man: Subverted with Mary's stepfather. He invokes this for his own amusement just to fuck with Ted, but he's actually quite friendly when he drops the act.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The final gag of the film — after one member of the Greek Chorus is fatally shot, the other ditches his instrument and runs for the hills.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Ted picks up one and ends up being framed for his crimes, but thinks he's being arrested just for picking up a hitchhiker.
    • Tucker makes Mary think Pat is one of these in order to eliminate him as a romantic rival.
  • Sexual Karma: Ted decides to quit being obsessed with Mary. Mary decides he's the one for him as a result.
  • Shown Their Work: Though Warren is played for laughs he's a very accurate portrayal of an individual with moderate to severe autism. He's often in his own little world, self-stimulates his routines and possessions which he holds dear, and is tactile defensive (does not like to be touched in certain areas). He is also functional and capable of establishing relationships and trust. Most indicated by the very subtle moment at the end where he allows Ted to touch his ears without going off. It is a Farrelly Brothers movie and they do a lot of work with individuals with disabilities and as a result, always show such individuals accurately and in a positive manner. This was also clearly demonstrated during the scene where Mary brings lunch to the other individuals from Warren's group.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: The reason Mary decides to be with Ted in the end — although she had seen some of his niceness on a date beforehand, it's not until he makes clear that he's fed up with being yet another stalker that she decides to be with him.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Pat Healy, the biggest potty-mouth of the cast. He fires a barrage of f-bombs, cluster and precise, throughout the whole film.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Mary. She has a strange effect on men that turns them into obsessive stalkers.
  • Stalker with a Crush: By the end of the movie, Mary has no less than five of these, including Ted. Six, if you count Magda's boyfriend, who says he was only sleeping with her to get closer to Mary.
  • Stalking Is Love: With everyone!
  • Sudden Musical Ending: The whole cast lip-synching to "Build Me Up, Buttercup".
  • Summation Gathering: invokedWord of God compared the climactic scene in Mary's house as like the ending of a mystery movie where the detective gathers all the suspects together and reveals who did it. Sure enough, the scene basically plays out like that, with Ted telling everyone that they're all stalkers, and revealing the identity of the mysterious "Brett".
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: When the cops mistakenly think that Ted is a serial murderer, they remark that they never look like how you expect them upon seeing Ted.
  • Title Drop: During the Greek Chorus bits.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Ted gets two fish hook barbs through his cheek in a graphic scene but is none the worse for wear when he shows up next.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Although it was mostly the result of Woogie's manipulations, Ted deciding to find Mary is what causes all of her past and present stalkers to come knocking at her door and for a brand-new one to be created.
  • Unwanted Harem: It's not cool being the object of so much affection.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Near the end, Healy and Tucker seem to have become this.
  • You Monster!: Parodied. When the cops mistake Ted for a Serial Killer and he apparently "confesses" having a body count in the dozens, one of the horrified detectives loses it. With utter fury he responds "You son of a bitch... you're gonna fry" before slamming Ted's head into the table repeatedly.


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