| Relax ... It's Just Sex
Several years ago, director P.J. Castellanetta wrote and directed a
gay-themed two- character film called TOGETHER ALONE. It was an
interesting exercise and focused on two men named Brian (one spelled
Bryan) who apparently were getting to know one another after a one-night
stand. I only vaguely recall the film, but it had a stagey quality to it with
less than stellar performances.
For his most recent feature, Castellanetta has assembled a cast of
professionals (many with TV credits, four of whom have been nominated
for Academy Awards) and attempted something on a much grander scale.
Jennifer Tilly plays Tara, described by one character as a gay man trapped
in a woman's body. She serves as the unofficial center around which the
other characters circle. And that group includes a gay male Christian couple,
a lesbian couple in the process of separating because one has now fallen
for a man, her boyfriend's HIV-positive brother and her best friend, an
aspiring screenwriter named Vincey (played by Mitchell Anderson).
The film begins on a quite amusing note with a voice-over intoning
and instructing on the various gay stereotypes ("lipstick lesbian", male
"gym queen") and then segues to a fairly explicit gay sex scene. As Vincey
ponders exactly how to complete a sex act, there are funny fantasy
sequences. I almost began to think the audience was being treated to
a gay ALLY MCBEAL. But Castellanetta has another agenda. The early
sequences establish the characters and their traits: Tara is a gossip who
wants to get pregnant; Vincey is looking for Mr. Right (and finding a
succession of Mr. Wrongs); Megan (Serena Scott Thomas) has decided
she's actually bisexual; her lover Sarina (Cynda Williams) freaks; Javi
(Eddie Garcia) is coping with his diagnosis while his brother Gus
(Timothy Paul Perez) wants something more than his life with Tara.
Each person uses sex for different reasons and each has much to learn.
The early scenes have a light, breezy quality to them but then a very
disturbing act of violence and an even more upsetting reaction by one
of the principals casts a pall over the remainder. Castellanetta tries
to cram too much in, and in this case, it's not too much of a good thing.
The major players all face crises of one kind or another and
RELAX ... IT'S JUST SEX turns into little more than a soap opera.
Because of this inconsistent tone, the performance vary wildly.
Anderson mines beneath the surface to show how scared his character
is over issues like aging and finding dates and the possibility of ending
up alone in life. Tilly has some affecting moments when she faces her
crisis late in the film and provides the comic engine that drive the group.
Cynda Williams and especially Lori Petty work well together as a lesbian
couple navigating the early stages of a relationship. There are also especially
hilarious cameos from Seymour Cassel and Susan Tyrrell as Serena
Scott Thomas' self-involved parents.
One wants to encourage alternative voices in cinema; there is certainly
a need for them. Castellanetta clearly has talent, it's just a shame he
could not find a singular voice for his film.
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language
and a scene of violence
Running time: 110 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.