Just One Time
review by Loey Lockerby, 17 November 2000

In this modern, sexually liberated world, are we really as open-minded as we like to think?  That’s the question posed by Just One Time, which throws its "average" characters into a situation that would inspire soul-searching in even the most jaded.

Anthony (Lane Janger), a New York City firefighter, gets what any good Penthouse Forum reader dreams about – an agreement from his fiancée, Amy (Joelle Carter), that she’ll have sex with another woman in order to fulfill his greatest fantasy.   The only catch is that Anthony has to sleep with another man to fulfill her fantasy.   After all, it’s only fair.  Right?

Anthony certainly doesn’t think so, but he goes along with the plan, hoping Amy will change her mind as the fated night draws near.  He spends some time "dating" a young gay man (Guillermo Diaz) who lives next door to the couple, while Amy gets to know a lesbian neighbor (Jennifer Esposito) who is more than a little amused by all the fuss.  The experience is life-changing for virtually everyone involved, but not exactly in the ways they expect.

Janger, who directed and co-wrote the film, could easily have turned it into a mildly diverting revenge story for all those women whose boyfriends indulge in stereotyped girl-on-girl daydreams.  He takes it further, however, and the result is a refreshingly honest look at love and sexual identity.  Janger and his co-writer, Jennifer Vandever (he wrote the "guy" scenes; she wrote the "girl" scenes), don’t let any of their characters off the hook, especially the two leads.  Both are too proud to let the other win their little game, and Amy, in particular, slowly becomes fascinated by the prospect of doing something that she once found incredibly uncomfortable.  Anthony doesn’t go quite that far, but he is forced to deal with his own double-standards and latent homophobia, especially when he discovers that his macho firehouse buddies are more adventurous and enlightened than he could ever imagine being.

Just One Time is an expanded version of a short film Janger made in 1998, and he is clearly at ease with the material.  The dialogue is witty and insightful, and he captures the easygoing, eclectic feel of his East Village setting.  The actors, most of whom also starred in the original short, fit effortlessly into their roles, although the central romance is hampered by a lack of onscreen chemistry between Janger and Carter – we’re constantly told how much they love each other, but it never quite feels authentic.  The ending is a little hackneyed, but the characters are wiser and more mature because of their experiences, which is the point of having them go through all this in the first place.

This isn’t a groundbreaking film, or even a particularly memorable one.  As romantic comedies go, however, it is unusually brave in its depiction of just how confusing love and sex can really be, even to those who think they’ve got it all figured out.

Directed by:
Lane Janger

Lane Janger
Joelle Carter
Guillermo Díaz
Jennifer Esposito
Vincent Laresca
Domenick Lombardozzi
David Lee Russek







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