★★★ | A Funny Kind Of Love
You could be forgiven for thinking from the opening scenes of this new comedy from Australian actor turned director Josh Lawson that you are about to watch a movie that is like a Wikipedia of sexual practices, or even some soft-core pornography.
Thankfully it is neither of those although Mr Lawson does want us to laugh at the absurdity of fulfilling sexual fantasies, which never ever turn out like you had dreamed and wished for.
These then are the totally separate stories of five couples and the tenuous link to them is the fact that they all live in the same suburb neighbourhood, and they are all white and middle-class. The first concerns Maeve who confides to Paul her live-in boyfriend that she has a rape fantasy, which he is as reluctant to comply with as he is with proposing marriage. Evie and Dan’s marriage has hit a rocky patchy so the counsellor they consult suggest role-playing to spice things up a bit. The trouble is that Dan gets so into it he quickly forgets why the started doing this as he is now completely obsessed with becoming an actor so he can play dress-up every day.
Richard and Rowena have been trying to have a baby for so long that sex has become a monotonous chore, for Rowena anyway. That is until her husband gets really bad news and bursts into tears and she suddenly discovers she has dacryphilia (that thankfully is explained on screen). It means that she gets sexually aroused at the sight of tears, which is harmless enough until she finds has to plot to constantly keep Richard sad enough to weep whenever she fancies getting laid. It is an odd condition, but not quite as potentially objectionable as the somnophilia that Paul has when he drugs his nagging wife Maureen so that when she is passed out, he can finally have sex with her.
The fifth and final … and by far the best scenario, is of a couple of strangers who have not met in person. Monica works as a signing translator for deaf people wanting to make phone calls, and one night Sam calls into use the service. He wants to be connected to a sex line and poor Monica has to be the conduit for the funny and bawdy language that passes between the ‘working girl’ and Sam a cute young graphic novelist. Despite its set up it has the most tenderness of all of the scenarios because of the very real chemistry between both the caller and the operator, and it is such a genuine connection.
There is one other tenuous link between this group of vignettes in the shape of a new neighbour who is going around introducing himself. Whilst handing over welcoming gifts he slips into the conversation that fact that he is a registered sex offender, but every household he calls on is so wrapped up in their own problems that the last part simply doesn’t sink in. Just when you think he may get back to his old ways, Lawson finishes him off. We had expected something fatal to happen because of the original title of the movie had been The Little Death and he is one of the ‘little deaths’.
The movie ends up being more bizarre than bawdy although it does heavily on the basic assumption that many people who find sex funny will find this movie comical too. The troubles are that the laughs are rather intermittent and some regarding the whole concept of non-consensual intercourse are bordering on being offensive and in extremely bad taste.
As well as giving himself a plum part (Paul) Lawson does pepper the piece with an extremely talented cast of well-known Australian actors. Particular mention to the pitch performances from TJ Power and newcomer Erin James as Sam and Monica. By placing their story last in the proceedings it did at least mean the movie ends on a much higher note than the one it started on.