Relax ... It's Just Sex

          Several years ago, director P.J. Castellanetta wrote and directed a
  gay-themed two- character film called
  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.

Rating:                         B-
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.