This “romantic comedy with jagged edges” is the feature film debut by the Chicago-based acting, writing and directing team of C.J. Julianus and his wife Lorrisa Julianus, under their Binary Star Pictures banner.
Filmed throughout the Chicago area, our maneating mistress Ava Moriatry (Lorrisa Julianus) is a disgraced Art History PhD with a unique sideline to put herself through school: she’s a highly-sought after dominatrix. As with most ne’er do wells: she wants out of the business, the adult entertainment business, that is. And her Russian mobster ex-boyfriend will let her out of the business, provided she pays off her $500,000 loan. (“That wasn’t our deal!” “The deal has changed.”) So she’s forced into one last job: seduce, then extort, Sebrian-Episcopalian priest Father Radovan (a fine Mickey O’Sullivan, aka Detective Tom Doyle, for you Chicago P.D. fans), who not only moonlights as an MMA fighter, but makes extra scratch by embezzling priceless art pieces. As she falls for the Father, what will Ava do: help him sell the artwork to save his parish or pay off her own debts?
In spite of its adult material concerning the noirish entanglements of a priest, a gangster and a dominatrix, the presentation is not religiously offensive or sexually graphic. The proceedings are softened by it’s-played-for-comedy scripting (by accomplished playwright Lorrisa Julianus) and the comedy works well against its unpredictable, twisty-noir vibes. The film, overall, at pokes fun at itself and has its campy moments, but team Julianus pull back the reins and never lets the camp go over the top to keep everything feature film, major studio classy on an indie budget.
Primarily a theater writer and director, C.J. Julianus certainly proves himself highly capable behind the lens as he extracts the very best from his unknown cast of Chicago theater thespians. The real star here, however, is producer John Wesley Norton doubling as the film’s cinematographer. Working against an obviously low budget, this debut by Binary Star Pictures looks way more expensive — major studio feature film expensive — than it is. A writer and director in his own right, and based on what I’ve seen in the frames, here, I am inclined to seek out his other works, of which Tubi streams two: the horror comedies Paranormal Calamity (2010) and Doctor Spine (2015). His 13-episode series, Dark Country (2018), streams on You Tube.
My only qualm with the film is that it runs a little long at an hour fifty minutes. That length is fine for streaming platforms, but stymies any cable television replays, which requires tighter, 80-minute films that program into two-hour blocks. While the production values and acting, here, are above the female-driven products of the Lifetime and Hallmark Channels, C.J. and Lorrisa Julianus are certainly on a bright road, as their Binary Star Pictures can certainly shine by providing a higher grade of romantic comedies or damsel thrillers for either channel.
This is a fine, debut indie-feature with class and style that exceeds any of the expected vanity trappings of similar, self-produced industry calling cards. I, for one, look forward to C.J. and Lorrisa’s next production. Keep your eyes open for that Binary Star Pictures banner, for that production will happen sooner, than later.
You can enjoy The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater as a with-ads stream on Tubi or as an ad-free experience on Amazon Prime via Indie Rights Movies. You can also learn more about the production on its official Facebook page.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener copy of this film from the production’s PR firm. That has no bearing on our review.