The Sex Movie
Perhaps one of the most primal activities in the human experience is sex. It drives what some would say is too much of our behavior. Sex results in people getting into relationships and breaking up. In recent years a person’s personal sexual identity has become the topic of sermons from the pulpit to debates in the Congress. The use of sex in movies has a long history. Just about immediately after cinema was invented someone made a movie with naked people. The premier film by writer-director Colton Lawrence is called ‘The Sex Movie’. While this may invoke a preconception that this is a soft core flick like those shown nightly on Cinemax. Actually, there is almost no nudity in the film, and virtually no simulated sexual acts. This is a film that openly and frankly discusses sex. While many variations of the topic are considered the main theme is sexual identity. What this film is concerned with is how we perceive our own sexual identity and how that in turn affects our interactions with others. This film is very up front with this conversation, perhaps too much for some members of the audience. While somewhat contrived the film does illicit the audience to continue the discussion after viewing.
The film opens at a shoot for an adult film. The actress (Jillian Love) and her male co-star, (Cory Richardson) are being attended to by four good looking young people, two men and two women. The fix their makeup, position the lights and start filming. The four are friends outside of work and decide to go hang out at the apartment of one of them after work. It just happens that each one represents a major sexual identity. Kris (Michelle Mosley) is the straight girl; it is her apartment that the group retires to. At the shoot she is more concerned with her own hair than what is going on a few feet away from her. J.D. (Matthew Tyler) is the straight guy, he runs the lights. Rafe (Mike Fallon), the gay man, is in charge of the physical set. Last there is Heidi (Eleese Longino), the lesbian, who does makeup and is the camera woman. Initially, J.D. wants to pass on getting together with the others but it seems that Kris can be rather forceful in getting her own way and not always in a pleasant fashion. At Kris’ apartment she sets a friendly mood by lighting some candles. The guys come up stairs as Heidi emerges wrapped in a towel after shower. J.D. playfully picks up a pair of Kris’ panties from the laundry basket and sniffs them to the amusement of Kris. She seems ready for something with a low cut dress. J.D. pulls out a little tin that contains some ecstasy. He cuts the tablet into four pieces and Heidi places it on the tongues of the others in an almost communion like fashion. There is also plenty of pot to go around during the evening as well as the more conventional cocktails. Rafe is the only one who does not imbibe; he is on a health kick. The room is huge but windowless. The four are completely contained within their environment. The conversation starts off light and friendly. Heidi does laugh when she hears that Rafe has gone back to school to take women’s studies. Heidi is a ‘man hater’, she is not only not attracted to the gender she appears to harbor a deep seated resentment. The topic soon turns playfully to oral sex as Kris seems bent on pushing everybody’s buttons. Kris ramps things up physically by passing a hit of pot to J.D. in a deep kiss while Heidi is taking a phone call in the other room. She just found out her girl friend has dumped her.
Kris brings up the topic of bisexuality. She has been considering that pleasure and intimacy is what is important, not the specific equipment or methodology. J.D. is the most uptight of the group. He is a lapsed Catholic who feels that homosexuality is wrong. Kris teases J.D. further by moving over to Heidi and making out with her. This uncovers hypocrisy with J.D.; he is against gay sex but is turned on by two women kissing. She then lets her top down slightly and presses her breasts against Rafe who is put off. Kris taunts J.D. by getting him to expose himself. The group begins to transcend playfulness in favor of playing mind games with each other. J.D. makes Heidi get on her knees and unzip both him and Rafe. The boundaries are being shattered. All the while Kris is having a gleeful time. The preconceived ideas of sexual identity are broken when Rafe touches J.D. and then sucks on Kris’ nipples. Kris enjoys pushing her friends to do things they normally wouldn’t think of doing. Soon everyone is stripped bare emotionally and the secrets each holds begin to come out.
Some years ago I use to enjoy walking around Greenwich Village here in New York. There was usually a few experimental theater groups putting on a play and all you had to do was walk up, buy a ticket and enjoy. This is how I felt watching ‘The Sex Movie’. It has the look and feel of such plays. Most of the activity occurs in a single set. The cast of four main characters provides an intense and intimate feel to the production. Even the dialogue is more suited to those theater productions than film and I mean that as a compliment. This is the first opus for writer-director Colton Lawrence and I sincerely hope that in his future endeavors he does not try to become too slick and polished. The power of this film lies in the raw emotions it presents. As a writer Lawrence gives us four friends talking to each other bluntly. As a director he stages the shots well and provides lighting and color use that becomes almost claustrophobic, using the camera to pull in the environment upon the characters.
From an emotional view point this film is very well done. The pacing is near perfect. It starts off playfully with Kris enjoying challenging her friend’s sexual viewpoints. It moves forward, escalating and intensifying as the even wears on. By the time things get physical all four characters know the lines have been cross but it is too late to get out. The basic theme explored here is sexual identity. There are several identities that people have; what they what they think they are, what the show the world and what they actually are. Kris’ mind games take the group almost brutally through each viewpoint in turn. This film addresses an important aspect of humanity, our sexuality. Instead of going for the puerile graphic scenes some may expect from the title we get an honest discussion. In the modern world the concept of two genders is being challenged and this film reflects that debate. In the final analysis here sexuality is far more fluid than most people want to admit.
Most of the cast have their debut in this film. Michelle Mosley is fantastic in her role as Kris. She gives much of her performance through her facial expressions and body language, an amazing feat to watch. You can see the wicked ideas as they bubble up in her brain; rub her breasts on a gay man’s face, offer more J.D. if he kisses Rafe. Every action is calculated with ulterior motives. Mosley starts off underplaying her part ramping up her performance appropriately as the film progresses. She is the instigator and provocateur and loves it. Eleese Longino gives a memorable performance here. She could have played Heidi as the stereotypical man hating lesbian so over used in film but she gives her character more dimensions. She portrays Heidi as a woman who is upset about just loosing her girl friend. She takes out her frustration and alleviates her depression by allowing herself to be drawn into Kris’ games. She may not have permitted herself to become so physically active and emotionally invested if not for the breakup. Mike Fallon also gives emotional depth to Rafe. He is not the usual gay character shown in more mainstream presentations. His presentation of Rafe is one of a confused young man that seems to be so sure of his sexual identity that he comes off as too out spoken. The same is reflected in the portrayal of J.D. by Matthew Tyler. He protests too much and too loudly about how heterosexual he is. Yet with the pretense of getting more from Kris he allows kiss with Rafe.
This film is not for the whole family due to its intensity but it would be interesting to watch with friends. Now, it might not be a good idea to emulate the activities here but this should make for an interesting conversation. The film show the potential for everyone involved. I look forward to anything they do next. Rarely does a group of first timers like this score such a solid production.