Better Than Sex
review by Paula Nechak, 16 November 2001
hate movies that use puppy-dog earnest talking heads spilling their
genial, limp guts to the camera as a way to propel and
disguise flimsy narrative.
It simply sirens the fact that the screenwriter hasn't done an
adequate job and has begrudgingly relied upon tricks to
convey his/her story voice.
Worse, the ruse rarely works -- think of the Russell Crowe/Salma
Hayek movie Breaking
Up. The disruption of suspension of disbelief can't provide the one-on-one intimacy that the filmmaker intends -- and
which a more linear and
structured plot provides.
ten minutes of viewing, I wanted to dislike the 1999 Australian
film Better Than Sex purely because it uses the
confidence device of talking
heads in spades -- as well as a grinding Greek chorus of a taxi
driver played by Aussie
veteran Kris McQuade who comments upon the strife in the
scenario. Yet I was eventually won over by the gutsiness of
the two lead actors,
who, in their symbolic and literal nakedness, transcend the script's
fact those actors, David Wenham (who has heretofore played a
pyromaniac in Cosi, an ex-con sociopath in The Boys
and who has made a potent impression in Belvoir Street Theatre and Sydney
Theatre Company productions)
and Susie Porter (equally brave in Two Hands and The
surpass the material written and directed by Jonathan Teplitzky by
miles and manage to eke out a touching tableau about
OK, so they meet, attract and have a one-night stand, believing
Josh's (Wenham) flight back to London in a scant three days
will avoid any of the
de rigeur awkwardness that applies to conventional courtship and
coupling, especially for Cin (Porter) -- who has cut and
pasted her world to fit
a mold that conveniently forgets previous rejections and precludes
the possibility of
future abandonment -- or commitment.
with the stacked deck of cheap screenplay tricks that ostensibly should have pushed the film onto the preciousness
heap, Better Than
Sex manages to find a poetic and unique voice in the malaise of independent movies about love and sex and the merging of
diffident, dissident minds
and bodies that ultimately leads to inevitable true love.
not the willingness of the actors to get naked that makes Better
Than Sex well, better, but the willingness of the actors
to bare another kind of
nakedness -- that of the heart and the embarrassing and vulnerable
-- that pushes it
beyond the ordinary. These are truly daring turns, and Susie Porter
especially finds the scary, angry, pointed place that compels a
thirty-ish woman to choose the sanctuary of independence and option of
sex as sport and outlet over the unwieldy hope of equal partnership
or at least some sense of fulfillment.
is shot much like a theatrical play, and that in
itself may have made such savvy actors initially more
comfortable with its premise. Had Teplitzky cut those external
little darlings and made a movie that lasted an hour instead of
filling space with tepid and inconsequential
exposition and, having allowing Wenham and Porter to play out
his sexual joust without the peripherals, just might have made a
film that transcended the
competition, giving these extraordinary actors a focused trust in
and for their courage.
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
or adult guardian.