Rating: Not Rated
Length: 101 minutes
Director: John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Writer: John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Starring: Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ DeBoy, Raphael Barker, Peter Stickles, Jay Brannan, Alan Mandell, Adam Hardman, Rachael C. Smith, Jonathan Caouette, John Cameron Mitchell
For anyone that has seen the classic “Boogie Nights”, there is a scene where the Burt Reynolds character- a porn director named Jack Horner- states that he would like to the be the first adult filmmaker to make a pornography film with a real plot. An actual movie, but, you know, with hardcore sex. I imagine that “Shortbus” would be what along the lines of his idea. I know this movie has a strong cult following. I am familiar with writer/director John Cameron Mitchell based on his (unseen by me still) “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, which won a good deal of acclaim. Then again so did this, but I may be in the minority here. I know what Mitchell is going for here. He is attempting to make a sweet movie about sex. An honest movie with real people who are good underneath it all (hell, you get to see underneath all of them). I couldn’t get a hold on the sweet factor though. It just felt sleazy to me. In the first five minutes of the movie, one of the characters, James (Paul Dawson) - a former male prostitute- films himself performing self fellatio and, uh, finishing in his own mouth. Meanwhile, James and his former child star boyfriend James’ (PJ DeBoy) sex therapist, Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), is having kinky sex with her husband Rob (Raphael Barker) in their apartment. Afterwards, she tells him about a couple that she’s helping where the female lies to the male about being able to orgasm. Turns out Sofia herself can’t orgasm. When James and James (sorry, Jamie now) hear about this, they introduce Sofia to the “Shortbus”- a sex orgy club where all the sex freaks in New York come to play. The goal from then on out is to help Sofia reach her orgasm. There’s a slew of side characters that pop up along the way- a dominatrix prostitute (Lindsay Beamish) who wants a real relationship, but is too tough to admit it; a gay stalker (Peter Stickles) of the James’; a third boyfriend (Jay Brannan) who latches on to the James’; and even a former mayor (Alan Mandell) who has come out of the closet. Call me crazy, but between the self fellatio complete with the money shot, an all male threesome that includes graphic salad tossing, and a whole lot of orgy sequences- I just couldn’t find the sweet aspect of the film. It still felt like I was watching a porn- granted a porn that was focused a little more on plot than usual- but a porn nonetheless. The acting, no doubt due to the fact that they had to sacrifice talent in order to find individuals who were willing to do these “activities” on camera, is mostly on porn level too (meaning it’s not too great). Mitchell has a keen eye for visuals and I have no doubt in my mind that he is a talented filmmaker. This movie has found a place in the heart of a good amount of people. It just didn’t find it’s way into mine. So Jack Horner, if you’re reading this, you still have a chance to make that movie. Maybe yours will be the one that works.