I like my movies like I like my books: weird, edgy, fucked-up, controversial; funny in an unconventional way that plays more on absurdity, irony, and darkness than ordinary humor; provocative in theme and delivery. Yes, it’s pure coincidence that Monday’s post was about sex, yesterday’s post was about TV, and today’s post is about sex on TV. Well, sex in movies. But movies that you watch on a TV. Semantics. Also, it’s Hump Day. So I kind of had to post this today.
Here are three movies we watched this week and enjoyed:
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01: NYMPH( )MANIAC | There’s a lot in this movie. On the surface it’s about sex, clearly (becuase get it?! …a nympho is a sex addict, and the ( ) as the “O” looks like a lady’s *ahem* parts…). But there are other themes at play here, too (most of them competing): math + science, psychology + philosophy, love + hate, pain + pleasure, delicate-ness + roughness, acceptance + rejection. There are parallels drawn between things you’re unlikely to have ever related on your own (like: sex and fly fishing — playing on themes of “the hunt” and “predator v. victim”, through verbal and visual imagery of sensuality and fluidity); some such parallels are explicitly narrated, others only alluded to in order to allow you to draw your own conclusion.
Sex begins as a reluctant game for Joe, the female main character, but eventually becomes a tool of power, manipulation, gratification; and an act of complete selfishness. At its core, I feel like vol. 1 of this series caters to themes of self-discovery, self-awareness, and the use of sex as a method of masking mental pain v. sex as a source of physical pleasure; sex as a passive act of recreation v. sex as an intentional act of love.
It all sounds very cliché, but I promise it’s not. It’s well-written, well-produced, and the performances by the cast leave you feeling. Also, the sex scenes are real. So. There’s that.
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Connie Nielsen
Read more: IMDB // Rotten Tomatoes // Official movie site
Run time: 2h 25m (← does not feel that long)
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02: PALO ALTO | Did you guys know that James Franco wrote a collection of short stories that were turned into a movie that Gia Coppola directed and that he starred in? I didn’t either. But it happened. And it’s good. Really good.
The blurb on Netlfix for this movie is misleading. Yes, homegirl falls for her soccer coach and they have an affair, but that’s not the main plot of the movie. At least, that’s not what I got from it. The movie is more about coming of age than it is about the coach of a girls high school soccer team fucking one of his players.
I haven’t been in high school for over a decade but this movie felt exactly like my youth. It’s hazy and confusing and chaotic and awkward — but also warm and honest and fun — and it brought me right back to sophomore year. I identified with every single theme the movie tackled, from the proverbial angst-y, existentialist teenage crises of purpose and worth, love and belonging, illicitness and innocence to the illusion of invincibility, the questioning of authority, and the eventual realization that you actually don’t know shit and should just stop trying so hard.
The depiction of youth in Palo Alto was my normal, which made the plot of the movie feel timeless. Be it 10 years ago or 15 years from now, teenagers are faced with same shit, generation after generation. The landscape of society might change, but the themes centralized around The Great Growing Up haven’t, and they won’t.
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03: CONCUSSION | A forty-something wealthy housewife who lives with her spouse and their two kids in the suburbs of NYC has a calculated rendezvous with a “high class” prostitute, then decides to become one herself. Sounds a bit sensational, doesn’t it? It’s not. The twist with this one is that the wealthy housewife is married to another woman, and she doesn’t search out sex with others out of boredom. In fact, she doesn’t search it out at all. It’s propositioned to her, and she follows through with it — and continues to pursue it — out of a profound unhappiness and loneliness.
Her first encounters with women outside her marriage are awkward and uncomfortable — so much so that they left Shannon and I squirming on the couch, even turning to each other at one point and declaring that we felt uncomfortable in our own living room just from watching the scenes. That is good acting. And the movie is packed full of it. There isn’t always a lot of dialogue (or fucking, actually), but it isn’t needed. The acting — and the cinematography — is just that good.
Concussion is very much a “grown-up” movie. It’s heavy and dark; emotionally raw and realistic. It’s the shortest movie we watched, but it felt the longest. It’s a good movie, but you definitely have to be in the right mood to sit all the way through it. And you have to be patient. There’s no humor. There’s no lightheartedness. It’s a true drama with a phenomenal performance by Robin Weigert, the actress who plays the main character.
What we appreciated most about this movie is that it depicts our demographic, our community, without being cheesy or cliché. We can’t speak to the accuracy of the whole being unhappy + lonely/sleeping with other people outside of our relationship/becoming a prostitute stuff, but it was really cool to see a spin on the typical formula of the unhappy housewife who seeks sex outside of her marriage by adding in the whole lesbian “thing”. And it was fascinating to see the depiction of the difference in the dynamic between two wives versus a wife and her husband.
This movie is mature in every sense of the word, and that’s a big part of what makes it so good. After it was over, Shannon and I spent a few minutes on the couch talking about it; speculating about some of the questions the movie presented but didn’t directly answer: At what point does a mutual and exclusive love supersede a lust for others outside of that love? Does it at all? Can it be justified, or accepted? At what point does the search for validation through sex with people outside of your relationship become more than that; at what point does it become cheating? Is it cheating from the beginning? Is it cheating at all? Can a real grown-up relationship survive when both parties are in love with each other, but aren’t fulfilled by each other? Can’t hate on a movie that makes you feel and think.
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Your turn! Have any good movies to recommend? They don’t have to be about sex, they just have to be good.