If you wanted to visit a place solely for the vibes, I can bet one of the first spots out of your mouth would be New Orleans. Hot sticky air, cold sticky drinks, and mardi gras beads dangling out the hand of a frat boy dangling out the balcony of a french colonial house that’s been surprisingly well maintained despite being barfed on every Friday at 4am. Well, okay, maybe not those vibes.
It’s the spirit of New Orleans everyone loves. A city that beats to its own drum, and cruises down the lazy river of life on its own time. For some, yes, that’s dropping your inhibitions at the hotel lobby and diving headfirst into the debauchery on Bourbon st., but it’s the culture; creole, voodoo, jazz, an everpresent understanding of death and life and celebrating everything in between – that gives New Orleans its unique flair.
New Orleans is both the setting and soul of Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. A film that follows a lost soul who happens to find herself barefoot in a city that never sleeps, but always seems to find its way. Like The Big Easy, Mona Lisa flows to its own current. The two are perfectly matched, both embodying a laid-back pace that typically wouldn’t fly anywhere else.
“Like The Big Easy, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon flows to its own current.”
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon follows the reserved and mysterious Mona (Jeon Jong-seo, Burning) who breaks out of a mental health facility after ‘convincing‘ a night nurse to undo the straps of her straight jacket, and ‘persuading’ a night watchman to knock himself unconscious.
Barefoot and without a dollar to her name, Mona stumbles through the city streets of New Orleans, meeting many of its creative inhabitants along her way.
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One such inhabitant is single-mom and French Quarter stripper Bonnie (Kate Hudson), who takes Mona under her wing after being saved by Mona’s powers of persuasion one night at a burger joint. See, Mona has a unique special ability. It’s how she escapes the mental hospital, and how she walks alone at night (please note the Amirpour reference) without incident. Like some kind of X-Man, Mona is able to manipulate the actions of people against their will; forcing them to injure and incapacitate themselves without her ever laying a finger on them.
Initially, Mona only uses this ability when cornered, like when a police officer is hot on her trail (played by Craig Robinson) and ready to take her back to solitary confinement. But Bonnie sees another potential, allowing Mona to shadow her daily life in exchange for a few tricks from up Mona’s sleeve. Soon Mona is using her ability for her own benefit, manipulating money from unassuming patrons of Bonnie’s club. But is Mona really benefiting, or is she merely lining someone else’s pockets?
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is a journey without a destination in mind. A hangout movie with a bit of the old ultraviolence, a character drama where the characters themselves are their own conflict. It isn’t quite thriller, it isn’t quite action, it isn’t quite comedy. It’s a feel good movie for people who watch feel bad movies.
” a feel good movie for people who watch feel bad movies.”
This film might be a struggle for structure addicts, as Mona isn’t afraid to stop at red lights to linger at interesting characters along the way. But for anyone willing to go on the ride, this is where the film excels most, embodying the best of the Big Easy and the colorful characters who lurk among it. Characters whose lives can’t be easily weighed on the scales of good and evil.
Kate Hudson is gobsmackingly good as Bonnie, a complicated soul who means well but doesn’t always follow a moral code. Typically reserved to grace the cases of now-extinct Rom/Coms (save for the one New Orleans-set horror Skeleton Key in which she starred in 2005), Hudson has branched out into grittier territory, shedding ego and showing the hardened skin of a mother who had to work for everything she has.
“Kate Hudson is gobsmackingly good as Bonnie..”
Craig Robinson is also a gem in Mona Lisa’s eye. His role is the moral center of the film, and quite possibly the only thing keeping us moving along in the plot at all. The ever consistent actor is typically reserved to a few punchlines and comedic beats in most of his film appearances, but in Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, he’s calling the shots, directing Mona and her gang of delinquents into a game of cat and mouse, while still remaining his sweet and charming self.
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon cruises through the city streets of New Orleans, not afraid to turn up the music, turn off the GPS, and get lost in a world of drugs, dancers, and debauchery.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon celebrated its North American premiere at the 2022 Overlook Film Festiva. Click HERE to follow our coverage of the entire festival and let us know if you’re excited to check out this Big Easy flick over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord.
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