Aug 29, 2010

[Movies] Relax...It's Just Sex (1998)

(Relax...It's Just Sex (1998)There's a certain style to LGBT films that I can't quite put my finger on. We seem to embrace comedic elements since we like to be all witty and smart sounding in our dialog. But at the same time such movies tend to have serious issues they want to tackle in earnest, thus forcing a more serious tone to things. Balancing both elements is a challenge for any director even without the whole gay element to things. As much as one might argue that this shouldn't make too much of a differences, we have to admit that the LGBT genre of stories has not quite been as fully explored as others. Whether we like it or not, this remains to be relatively new grounds.

So one has to commend these directors and screenwriters for trying to make headway in this arena. Despite the mixed results in terms of the eventual movies and TV shows, we have to give them credit for trying to make LGBT stories as commonplace as remakes. Now there's a scary thought - are remakes and reimaginations a natural part of the evolution of storytelling in Hollywood? Perish the thought!

This movie was definitely not one of the better ones that I've seen, however I feel that they certainly had big goals in mind. It just sort of whimpered in the end. I think.

The videotape cover of 1998 film Relax...It's ...Image via WikipediaRelax...It's Just Sex can be compared to a number of other movie and TV franchises. The kind of camaraderie sort of reminds one shows like Friends or some other ensemble piece. The big difference is that the movie involves mostly gay characters and couples with the inevitable fag hag mother hen.

The movie centers around the lives of a group of friends trying to get through the rigors of modern life. Vincey (Mitchell Anderson) is your typical creative gay man struggling to find himself a man to call his own. Sarina (Cynda Williams) and Megan (Serena Scott Thomas) are a lesbian couple who have to break-up after Megan reveals she's having an affair - with a man. Tara (Jennifer Tilly) is the mother fag hag for the group and she's struggling with her efforts to conceive a child with Gus (Timothy Paul Perez).

And there was one more gay couple but I can't remember the names of their characters anymore. They weren't that important though.

The story begins in earnest when Javi (Eddie Garcia), the brother of Gus, reveals to the group that he's HIV positive. Thus at this HIV coming out dinner, the friends all have different takes on the matter, especially after the artist Buzz (T.C. Carson) goes into this long winded rant how there's no real proof linking HIV with AIDs and how starting AIDs treatments after HIV has been diagnosed poses more risks. This has everyone taking different stands on the matter and thus the ball gets rolling.

At first I was really liking this movie given the light, comedic tone early on. It starts with this 1950's style educational video on gay roles and archetypes and differentiating from a gay man and a lipstick lesbian. Then it shifts to Vincey having an internal monologue (complete with flashback quotes from friends) about whether or not he should spit or swallow, if you get my drift. These moments had me all ready for a great comedy and that actually got me excited to watch. Plus you have Jennifer Tilly being all, well, Jennifer Tilly.

But once the dinner gets underway and the whole HIV debate starts, the movie changes course into something a lot more serious and somber with some major issues. You have Javi struggling with his HIV diagnosis and the strange progress of how he becomes involved with Buzz. You have Vincey trying to cope with the fact that he was gay-bashed in college and how that culture of hate persists. You have Robin (Lori Petty), Sarina's new girlfriend, going on about how she embraces the more butch lesbian role since it makes sure that other women understand what they're getting and not have to deal with some straight girl having a fling. And the list goes on.

The movie proceeds to tackle each of these issues from the perspective of each of the characters and you don't really get that vibe that the group is really working together. They tend to operate in silos for the story, each with their own problem to overcome and in the end the sort of resolve things one way or another. You'd think that such a close group of friends would somehow have more instances of consulting with one another or trying to work through issues with the help of friends, but no. Thus it starts to feel like you're following several movies at one time with each one lacking sufficient development and explanation.

So by the end I was struggling to get through it and the movie had made me lose interest overall. And it's such a shame since the movie realyl started very strong and had some good ideas about how to put things together. Their was the educational video. There was the internal monologue. Heck, there was a conversation about the dinner plans while in the middle of having sex for crying out loud! But they kind of forgot about these elements and move down this dark shame spiral of being overly serious.

Relax...It's Just Sex is a movie with an identity crisis between being a comedy or a drama when it could have taken the black comedy route or something like that. It gets 2 weird examples of "artisitic" photography out of a possible 5.
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