Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 19 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 2; Language 4, Sex-8; Nudity 8.
Our star rating (1-5): 1.5
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within…
Romans 12:2a (J.B. Phillips)
Director/screenwriter Patrick Brice’s sex comedy, which I saw at all places at an art house theater, is also a mystery film, the mystery being how it avoided an NC-17 rating. The plot seems to pivot around one young husband’s small sex organ compared to that of another husband when the two and their wives spend an alcohol and drug-saturated evening of getting acquainted.
Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) have just moved to Los Angeles with their little son RJ. Alex, a stay-at-home dad, is worried about making new friends. He need not worry long, because at a kids’ park RJ, who has been given a bag of Gummies, quickly attracts Max, also his age. This in turn draws the boy’s hat-wearing father Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), who obliquely criticizes them for providing such unhealthy fare to their child. Even if the friend-hungry Alex had thought of telling the guy to mind his own business, his resolve would have vanished when Kurt quickly offers his friendship. Before they know what has hit them the newcomers have accepted this stranger’s invitation to dinner that night, R.J. included.
Arriving with a gift bottle of wine so cheap that Alex tries to remove the label, the three are welcomed into a very upscale home. Kurt’s glamorous French wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) pretends not to notice the crass wine, effusively making them feel at home. The boys continue to hit it off in another part of the house while the parents become acquainted. We have already seen how Alex and Emily have grown luke-warm in their sexual relationship, the film opening with them engaged in sex and then separating so that each can come to a climax using their hands. Apparently, we are to believe, they are the perfect setup for this Spengali-like pair of hipsters to try something new and kinky—maybe you recall Paul Mazurkey’s 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
There is a pleasant dinner and conversation, after which Kurt charms the boys into going to bed so the adults can concentrate their attention on each other. More talk, and then Charlotte places her hand on Alex’s knee. Now even he realizes this evening could lead to them becoming more intimately acquainted than he or Emily had bagained for. Much more follows in a strip-tease like manner. There is a scene in which he follow’s Kurt’s lead to expose himself nude before the women, thus revealing his penis envy.
Critics have been largely favorable toward the film, one calling it “ a delightful romp between the sheets.” I found myself thankful it was such a short film, though there was one scene that was funny, taking me back to the 1960s when Yoko Ono made the news with her film called “No. 4.” That almost forgotten memory was triggered by the sequence in which Alex looks at the large pictures with which Kurt has decorated one of their rooms. At first I took them for close-ups of flowers of various colors, similar to some of Georgia O’Keefe’s lovely paintings. But soon we learn that the circle in the middle of each “flower” is a human anus in the middle of a butt. Kurt calls this collection “Portals.” In 1964 Yoko set up a treadmill over which men walked while from below her cameraman filmed the butts of the participants. I remember laughing at her reply to someone commenting on this filming of a seldom photographed portion of the body, rather than the face: she said that there was more expression there than on their faces. You can see this 5 minute 39 second film on YouTube. I found it as interesting as this longer film—certainly time-saving. Maybe I’m being too strait-laced and grumpy, but Alex and Emily could benefit by heeding the apostle Paul’s plea to the Christians at Rome. I any of you go, I would appreciate hearing your opinion.
No questions for this turkey—though if you do watch it with someone, there is a set of generic questions that will work in the July Visual Parables.