Though it doesn't exactly run out and shatter the conventions of romantic comedy, "Love and Sex" (IMDb listing) overcomes flashbacky voiceover narration, a weak soundtrack and occasional sentimentality with a clever screenplay, snappy dialogue and sexual straight talk, not to mention a razor-sharp sense of comic timing and a hilarious cameo from David Schwimmer.
The film tells the story of Kate Wells (Famke Janssen), a magazine journalist who's given until the end of the day to transform her "How to Feel Better About Yourself Through Blowjobs" essay into a generic fluff piece on love and dating. Kate takes a seat at her desk and begins to reminisce, going through her history of sexual partners. It becomes apparent very early on that the only man Kate's ever really loved for any substantial amount of time is Adam (Jon Favreau).
Sure, "High Fidelity" was essentially the same thing, but this time it's for girls.
So we tag along with Kate and Adam. Adam rescues Kate from a bad date. They fall in love, they move in together. Eventually, Adam breaks it off, citing a sense of complacency ("We're turning into an old married couple," he says) and his ongoing intimidation by Kate's more storied sexual past.
Janssen ("X-Men, "Goldeneye") and Favreau ("Swingers," which he also wrote and co-produced) are a suprising fit. She's tall and supermodely (and looking like a bit of an indie Sandra Bullock); He's tall, balding and slightly out of shape. But Valerie Breiman's screenplay and direction play to the actors' physical attributes.
"Don't poke the bear in the zoo!" yells the teddy-bear-like Favreau in one of the movie's funnier scenes. On their first date, Adam teases Kate about her huge hands and clown-sized shoes. She mocks his big head.
It's all very cute, particularly the un-hunky Adam's striptease scene, but "Love and Sex" misses the mark in spots. Because Breiman set out to make a light-hearted comedy, the film isn't serious when it needs to be. About a third of the way in, Kate becomes pregnant, and we see her and Adam's apprehension turn to excitement. But when Kate miscarries, it's as if the film zooms out emotionally. The audience has to sit back and watch from a distance as the couple wordlessly shuffles along (and hugs) to the tune of some appropriately sad-sounding modern rock track. This isn't real at all, and it undermines the emotional connection the film has been building toward.
But this is such a small part of the "Love and Sex," and the movie recovers, mainly through its accurate portrayal of the final days of a long-term relationship and a light-hearted send-up of dating scene dimwits. There's the dumb Italian softcore-porn star, the basketball player who's obsessed with Kate's ass and the not-so-smooth-talking French teacher to whom Kate orthopedics and all loses her virginity.
"Don't be scary," he tells her, using broken English that typically elicits cries of "What?!"
You can probably guess what happens at the end, since it's not much of a surprise. This is, after all, still a romantic comedy. But along the way there are enough sharp barbs, goofy surprises and familiar scenarios to make "Love and Sex" worth the price of admission.
Filmfodder Grade: B+
Review courtesy Flak Magazine