There is something about the pace of Mary as an individual that speaks to her method of uniquely and politically inhabiting, or rather effecting, Space. The space she designs for herself is really just a corner in the room of the public sphere. She designs a party, one doubly aimed as a way to earn rent money by charging entrance and a veneer of exclusivity; with a fringe guest list and a particularly chaotic aural environment. Multiple conversations drown each other out and house music beats the focus from our eardrums. Mary's voice speeds up in certain moments and pronounces things with a gay man's delayed/elongated affectation the next. The unexpected inflections of her line readings sometimes undermine the literal meaning of what is said. Her friends are a community of performers; the club world is peopled with lower class individuals, diverse ethnicities and disenfranchised transgenders who "go out" to put on acts of being rich and spoiled. Mary has rushed past experiencing labor to just perform the role of hostess. She acts both bored of her role ,and glamorously incorporating it at the same time. For her, pleasure is achieved by acting rich (which she isn't)and extravagant at the exact same time that she works to make money. Her role is played out in a poor apartment building she is nearly evicted from yet her actions are rushing ahead to the life of leisure.
It is only when Mary is removed from her own self- designed world that what seemed rebelliously flippant and ingenious now plays more obnoxious, inane and out of place. Brought to jail, it's the first time she's brought into society's dominant institutions , and the first point that we second guess her charm. Whether it be in jail or the library she ends up working for, Mary is told she needs to shape up and play by the rules. She mocks authority, she doesn't act affected by things that she is expected to. The film's humour allows us to laugh at how her haughty library worker bees praise Dewey Decimal and mock Mary's lack of serviance. Parker's performance makes it clear that they consider her a spoiled bitch; it's unacceptable to be flip and as free thinking as a man, especially when you look like a cute young woman. We are made aware, in absurdist touches like animal sound effects, suddenly overdramatic line readings, and rapid facial close up reaction shots echoing Mary's performance as mediating the concern over her situations, that those who live by the system--the new immigrant, the cops and her godmother/boss-- are insulted or even threatened by her lack of seriousness.
When Mary 's new after hours plan becomes mastering Dewey overnight, not all of her Party friends approve. Mary moves the rules of the library over to the rules of organising closets and a DJ 's record collection. This ingenuity and personal shift, to her initially disapproving friends, appears quite suddenly,somewhat masculine in its pace and implementation. She doesn't ask to learn or ask to rearrange; she just does. A man who learns quickly is a winner in the workplace where a woman is a nuisance and a bitch. It is Mary's way of being able to live and work in the public sphere. She has to add a sense of play and performance, to find a fun utility for the skills of the workplace.
Mary's quirky marketplace rebellion is complicated by the fetishized distraction of her dress and ironic mannerisms, further mimicked in the screwball color of the film's style. Her dress and attitude are an acknowledgement of the spectacle and illusion of surface beauty, but she also dedicates her life to knowingly construct the product that she mocks. The added novelty of Party Girl is it's upending of romantic expectations. The plasticity of Mary's playfulness and sarcasm ensures her romantic suitors are fellow outsiders; illegal aliens, new immigrants, young wannabe DJs. The mockery of her persona is a veiled satire recognized by men with a shared level of disenfranchisment. Mary's journey suffers no delays from romance that cause self doubt or halting neurosis. Her lovers are tangential partners who come and go. Party Girl itself is an exercise in mocking and upending the process of production. Its tone never allows the spectator to be blanketed in passive laughter. Instead, its comedy is a constantly busy melange of cartoonish literalism, screwball aspects of physical comedy,barely contained bedlam and direct to camera addresses. Such aspects often undermine or complicate straight laughter from other sources of the film's humor, resulting in the film's mixed critical reception. But the film, like Mary herself, winks at its production and refuses to allow us to passively appreciate the lifestyle and money that is usually associated with the Manhattan demimonde.