better than sex

          Can true love really form on the basis of a one-night stand? That’s the
  intriguing question posed by the Australian romantic comedy-drama
    better than sex, written and directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. Framing the
  film with interviews of the principals, Cin (winningly portrayed by Susie Porter)
  and Josh (the always fine David Wenham), Teplitzky examines from all angles
  a sexual attraction that goes beyond original expectations.

          At a party, dress designer Cin meets the dashing Josh, a nature
  photographer based in London. Although they are attracted to one another,
  they don’t really connect until they decide to share a cab ride home. The taxi
  driver is part Cupid, part Dear Abby (and played by Kris McQuade), willing the
  pair together and later popping up to offer Josh advice.

          Once they arrive at Cin’s apartment, the big question is whether or not
  she will invite him up. (Of course, if she doesn’t there’s no movie.) Teplitzky
  employs voice-overs to allow the audience to be clued into just what each is
  thinking. Both are attracted to one another. He is set to leave for London
  (where he’s based) in three days, so there’s no chance of a messy follow-up.
  No worrys, no entanglements, no problems. Ah, but if only life were that simple.

          After a night of more than adequate sex, Cin decides to invite Josh to stay.
  Gradually, after they’ve exhausted one another, they settle in to talking and
  begin to learn the little things about one another that most couples come
  to take for granted.

          Handling what is basically a two-character, one-set piece, Teplitzky (with
  an able assist from cinematographer Garry Phillips) keeps his camera moving
  and finds ways to open up the action without completely violating the intimacy
  of the film. He employs a cadre of unnamed friends of both Josh and Cin to serve
  as commentators who offer up non-sequiturs about everything from oral sex
  to disbelief that Josh and Cin have hooked up.

          A minor threat to their burgeoning relationship is poised by Cin’s friend
  Sam (Catherine McClements), the kind of brash, sexually aggressive girl who
  unwittingly flirts with any man, available or not. Punching Cin’s competitive
  buttons, Sam makes an unscheduled appearance that momentarily disrupts
  the couple’s idyllic time together, particularly when it appears to Cin that
  Josh is returning the interest. It’s a moment that tests the relationship
  between Cin and Josh and aids in helping them sort out their true feelings.

          The bulk of the film rests squarely on its leads and both Porter and
  Wenham are winning and appealing. While neither is conventionally beautiful
  by movie star standards, neither are they unattractive. With her short cropped
  blonde hair and freckles, Porter is the girl-next-door, albeit one that projects
  an open sensuality. She meshes quite well with the ginger-haired Wenham
  who possesses both rugged good looks along with a magnetic charm that
  combine perfectly into a heartthrob. The two actors share a terrific and
  believable chemistry that carries the film over its occasional weak moments.
  Their sex scenes are rather tasteful, given the subject matter and there are
  quiet moments that contain the same kind of ineffable, unexpected eroticism
  found in movies like
A Place in the Sun.

          On the surface,
better than sex may seem nothing more than a charming,
  engaging romantic comedy. But although the setting and participants are
  Australian, the events depicted have a universal quality that transcends
  national boundaries. Although one might argue that there is nothing better than
  sex, this small film suggests that love may indeed been worth the risk. Given
  everything that’s happened in the world since the fall of 2001, that is a pretty
  simple but potent message.

                                     Rating:          B+
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.