Von Scherier Mayer, Daisy: Director Profile (Women in Film)

The search for modern protagonists motivated female directors to revisit the past as well as the present. Unlike most of Hollywood’s Gen-X movies, Daisy von Scherier Mayer’s Party Girl (1995) was made by an insider. Mary (Parker Posey) may be considered a modern version of Breakfast in Tiffany’s Holly Golightly: By days, she works as a library clerk, by night, she’s queen of the club scene. A camp diva blessed with cool deadpan and funkiness, Mary is essentially good girl whose “badness” is a pose. At heart, the movie is an earnest coming-of-age saga: When Mary finally breaks the ancient code of the Dewey Decimal System, it opens her life, she experiences an epiphany. In a flash of inspiration, she arranges the record-album collection of her deejay roommate.

Party Girl is meant to be a Desperately Seeking Susan for the 1990s, with the same hip Downtown sensibility. Reflecting the zeitgeist, Mayer and co-writer Harry Brickmayer depict Manhattan as a multi-cultural milieu: Mary is attracted to a Lebanese falafel vendor, Mustafa; her roommate, Leo, is Latino; her friend, Rene, is gay, the club is predominantly black. Slight and inconsequential, Party Girl is a superficial portrait of New York nightlife, too cheerful and self-pleased to pursue any issue. Mayer shows no sense of comic pacing, imposing on the film a moralistic tone that sends Mary on a soul-search for her responsible side.

If you want to know more about this issue, please read my book, Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film(NYU Press, hardcover 2000; paperback 2001).