Monday, June 17, 2013

Casual Sex? (1988)

Seen: On my laptop, streamed from netflix instant.

So Casual Sex? has been gaping out at me from netflix instant's comedy and romance sections for a while, and I finally broke down and gave it a try. At first I wasn't too optimistic about an 80s romantic comedy that was all about ladies and sex, but then I saw it was written and directed by women and starred Lea Thompson and Victoria Jackson, and my curiosity won out. And boy am I glad it did, because this movie actually rules! It focuses on long-time best friends Stacy (Thompson) and Melissa (Jackson), who have had very different relationship experiences. Stacy has been dating regularly since high school, considering herself sexually adventurous and experienced, but the arrival of the AIDS epidemic has her so worried about contracting an STD that she can't help but become celibate out of fear. Melissa, on the other hand, has developed her own anxieties about sex over the years and has been with just two men, and never experienced an orgasm during. Wanting to meet good guys but paranoid about disease, Stacy whisks them away to a health resort where she hopes they'll both find lovers who are health-conscious and not assholes. Humorous romantic escapades ensue.

Taking a casual storytelling approach, with Stacy and Melissa laying out the major exposition in the beginning and then continually talking to the audience as the narrative plays out, Casual Sex? is a funny, frank, and just wonderfully surprising comedy. Its focus on heterosexual sex and romance makes it a little narrow in its direction, but I found myself loving the open discussions about female sexuality and sexual experiences, as well as the honest portrayal of these two women and their strong friendship. Though finding boyfriends may be their ultimate goal (and the film's predictable ultimate resolution), their friendship is the most important constant, and indeed at one point Stacy is ready to immediately forsake her own romantic entanglement to help out Melissa. Good priorities! Jackson and Thompson have an easygoing dynamic defined by relaxed and funny dialogue and disparate personalities that nevertheless understood each other. They are joined by some funny dudes, too, with very silly performances from Andrew Dice Clay and Stephen Shellen, but I was most won over by the freaking adorable Jerry Levine. HE IS SO CUTE YOU GUYS.

The script is funny though not uproarious, and generally the tone is light and a little campy. It's mostly the sex-positivity and well-rounded portrayal of women that won me over, since I rarely expect those things in frivolous romantic comedies. I loved that Stacy is never, ever judged or shamed for her sexually active lifestyle and frequent change of partners, nor is Melissa shown as lacking because she's inexperienced. They both do their own thing and are supportive of each other, and the only issue raised with Stacy is the importance of safe sex. They also have some open conversations about sexual acts and pleasure, and whenever there is a sex scene it's never gratuitous or even that revealing, generally focusing on Stacy or Melissa's experience. There are just a lot of little things that I really appreciated about Casual Sex?, making it a genuinely enjoyable and memorable movie. It has its flaws of course- mostly I could have used a little less romantic focus, especially the hokey ending (though I hear there's an alternate ending out there), and the "skinny blonde bitch" character is a tired and backwards stereotype (she's not a major figure, though). But but but mostly I just really liked it and was surprised by how refreshing it was and will probably watch it again soon because of girl power.


Pair This Movie With: My first thought was another under-seen lady-centric 80's comedy, Modern Girls, which I watched recently. But a really great thematic pairing (ie best friendships and female sexuality) is For a Good Time, Call... which is just excellent all around.

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