www.imdb.com/title/tt0837803/ - Internet Movie DataBase
As an ex-partner of mine used to say, they ought to put a label on "poly" movies to warn us that "this movie contains idiots". This whole review is going to be filled with spoilers, because fuck this movie.
We start out with James and Heather. The spark seems to have gone out of their relationship. Heather comes from a progressive family - her parents have an open marriage and firmly believe that jealousy and possession have no place in romantic relationships. Heather and James tried to open their relationship once in the past, but when Heather went on her first date (that did not include sexual activity), James called up his old girlfriend for a one-night stand to help him ignore his intense jealousy about Heather on a date. Since that didn't seem to work, they closed up their relationship again, but are now looking for something else to "fix" things. Heather recommends attending a seminar given by a relationship counselor.
Next we meet Ellis and Renee. They are also bored with their relationship and seem to snip at each other rather easily, flying off the handle every time one says something. They take every statement the other makes in the worst possible interpretation and spend the entire movie being accusatory and suspicious of each other. [inserted movie clip of arguing] They also attend the seminar.
The counselor advocates group sex as a method to "fix" a flagging relationship. She signs up our two couples for therapy and each couple goes to their respective sessions where the counselor can't seem to see that group sex for each of these couples is probably the worst possible thing they each can do. Everyone say it with me now ... Relationship Broken, Add More People!
Next, we see James and Heather in a very typical situation - Heather's old boyfriend, Sixpack, comes to town for a visit and James is jealous. James is so insecure that he cannot even be civil towards Sixpack on the car ride home from the airport. Of course, Sixpack is an arrogant prick, but James is not mad about that, James is instead seething with jealousy and suspicion regarding what he imagines will be happening later that night after he drops Heather and her old boyfriend off at Heather's apartment and James has to go home alone. Of course Heather starts to bristle at the constant jabs from James at what a dumbass Sixpack is. Here's a hint guys (and gals and everyone else), even your partner agrees that a past partner is a dumbass, you can say so once, but harping on the fact is only likely to make your partner feel defensive for having once chosen to date or marry that past partner. Don't pick on your partner for past mistakes - especially if they already agree it was a mistake. So James provokes Sixpack into an argument even though Sixpack was mostly pretty friendly towards James (albeit a little dumb).
After some vicious insults in the car, Heather and Sixpack leave James to his jealousy, who then panics and thinks this fight might have just pushed Heather into the arms of her old boyfriend after all. So, his method of damage control involves breaking into her secured apartment building and sneaking into her apartment, where Sixpack, the former football star and current military man, tackles James, thinking him to be an intruder. Heather comes out of her bedroom (where she was sleeping alone) to see what the fuss is all about and rescue James.
Could James have been any more idiotic? Hmm, I've pissed off my girlfriend with my unreasonable and unfounded jealousy and now I'm going to stalk her when she explicitly told me to leave her alone, and break into her apartment with the intention of having a heartfelt, intimate discussion while her old boyfriend is sleeping on the couch in the next room. This doesn't sound like the most disastrous plan known to man?
So now James has to sleep over because he has a concussion and Heather doesn't want him driving. But she's plenty pissed off.
Meanwhile, Ellis and Renee have been having issues of their own. Ellis also has a serious case of jealousy, only his is topped off with a massive load of machismo. Renee has to constantly placate him, reassuring him that she loves his penis and that she loves having sex with him. Seriously. In one discussion, they talk about the upcoming group sex therapy the counselor has suggested for them and the subject of fantasies comes up. Ellis admits to being turned on at the thought of watching another couple have sex right in front of him. So Renee admits to being attracted to other women. Ellis immediately turns on her and accuses her of being sick and perverted because of her "gay" desires. While having this argument at a restaurant, the waitress appears to be quite friendly with Renee, who then seems to encourage her friendly overtures while then getting offended at Ellis' assumption that "friendly" implied "flirting".
Somehow or another, Renee ends up with the waitress' phone number and schedules a get-together. Ellis insists on coming along. They show up, the waitress offers marijuana, and while stoned out of their minds, Ellis interprets their totally platonic agreeableness as flirting and shouts at the waitress to keep her hands to herself because Ellis has the supercock and he won't let her get between them. And, I'm not paraphrasing. [inserted movie clip of Ellis yelling about his supercock]
Naturally, the waitress throws them both out.
Somewhere in there (I forget when exactly, 'cause their fights all seem to blend together), Renee and Ellis have one fight where she has to insist "I love your penis", and in another one, they fight in the elevator over Rene's supposed lesbianism that threatens Ellis' masculinity, sparking a bout of angry-sex. [inserted movie clip of arguing] Because when you're pissed off at your partner, the thing you want to do most is fuck him, right? Sorry, but I do not have pity sex. I will not fuck someone just to reassure him. I will have sex because I want to have sex and have hopefully found a partner who also wants to have sex with me, but a pity-fuck* is never a good idea for the long-term stability or reassurance of someone's ego. Then he's likely to wonder how much of the sex was a pity-fuck and if you really are attracted to him or just feel sorry for him.
Anyway, the morning of the scheduled group sex (and keep in mind, neither couple knows who the other couple they're scheduled to fuck is), Renee and Ellis are taking a shower together and Renee seems to think his previous night's stoned proclamation about Renee being the woman he wants to marry and no one coming between them is now romantic and offers to cancel the group sex session, since it was her idea in the first place. Unfortunately, Ellis now seems to be looking forward to it, so Renee agrees rather reluctantly for his sake.
Now we have probably the most awkward sex scene since Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
All 4 people arrive at the same time and wait for the same elevator. They all try to surreptitiously scope each other out. Then, an old couple shows up and waits for the same elevator. Everyone has a moment of panic as they consider that it might be the old couple, but, obviously, it's not. So now the two couples enter the counselor's waiting room. In a very awkward silence, they sit and wait. Finally, Heather breaks the silence by asking if Ellis and Renee are the other couple and expressing relief that they look so clean. Everyone looks around uncomfortably.
Finally, the counselor walks in, and asks if they've introduced themselves, then leads them down the hall to another room. She opens the door and lets them in, closing the door behind them and leaving the two couples totally to their own devices, without a word of encouragement or instruction.
In silence, the four stare at each other, not sure what to do. Finally, Heather starts kissing James. So Ellis and Renee look at each other as if to say "you wanna? I guess so" and begin kissing each other too, while the camera goes out of focus. Eventually Renee turns around to start kissing Heather, but Heather pushes her towards James after only a brief kiss. So the couples swap partners.
Next we see a series of shots where each of the now-swapped couples is having silent and uncomfortable-looking sex across the room from the other. We never see a true group encounter, just two couples who happen to be having sex in the same room, all the time with James and Renee rolling their eyes towards Ellis and Heather, more interested in what their regular partner is doing than in what they are doing themselves.
The next morning, both couples wind up at the same restaurant, unbeknownst to each other. They discuss the previous night. Heather thinks the experience was great, she learned that she could actually orgasm and it wasn't a physical disability that has prevented her from having orgasms with James all this time. Unfortunately, James thinks that means that Heather doesn't really love him and he breaks up with her. It couldn't possibly be that Heather does love him but James actually just sucks in bed - and sex isn't like a learned skill or anything that James could improve at with a little instruction. As if I didn't think James was the stupidest character ever, he goes and does this. Heather has been unable to orgasm, but her group sex experience has not told her that James is a bad partner, it only tells her that it's possible and now she can start experimenting to figure out how to get an orgasm *with* James. But James decided long ago that love is exclusive and Heather's interest in other people means that she doesn't really love him, and her orgasm with Ellis the night before only solidifies his belief.
Renee and Ellis don't seem all that happy about the group sex and when Ellis goes to the bathroom, the waitress talks to Renee and expresses her wish to continue being friends (and maybe more) as long as Renee doesn't bring Ellis with her. Renee seems receptive. In the bathroom, Ellis runs into James and they have a fairly pleasant chat. James returns with Ellis to say hi to Renee and for some reason, this makes Renee decide to throw away the waitress' phone number. James goes back out to his patio table to discover that Heather ditched him. Surprise, surprise, she doesn't want to continue breakfast with someone who just dumped her.
I took two morals away from this movie. 1) If you're James and Heather, alternative relationships and sex outside of the primary are BAD. 2) If you're Ellis and Renee, sex with strangers will fix a relationship that is basically comprised of two people who don't like each other much.
The counselor should have had her license revoked. Her character was the absolute worst example of a counselor possible. After only one session, she decided to match up these two couples when anyone could tell in the first five minutes of the session that neither couple was in the right frame of mind to successfully enjoy open relationships. Both men were being dragged into it kicking and screaming and both women think the way to fix their own relationships is to fuck a totally random stranger - that somehow this one night of meaningless, anonymous sex will fix their lack of communication, lack of chemistry, lack of common interests, the boys' insecurities, and their own emotional issues all at once.
Heather is the one character I truly felt for. I believe that she is that poor case of Isolated Poly. She is poly and doesn't know anyone else to help her, to guide her, or even date her. Instead, she hooks up with this schmuck who is so deeply co-dependent that she can't even spend the evening with a male friend without him suspecting her of infidelity or fucking his ex-girlfriend in retaliation.
Ellis is equally as insecure as James, but his is exhibited in his retreat to machismo, where he has to prove he's King of the Castle, He of the Supercock. Apparently, it's his ability to penetrate his girlfriend that makes up his entire identity and the source of his entire self-esteem.
And Renee! An attractive, assertive, reasonably intelligent, sex-positive woman who, for some bizarre reason, feels the need to remain in a relationship with a man she has to placate on an hourly basis. She constantly panders to him, reassuring him of his manliness, refraining from exploring her own desires in deference to his bruised ego.
Jesus, I hated this movie and all the characters in it. Well, I didn't hate Heather, I felt sorry for her and I sorely wanted to jump in the movie, put my arm around her and tell her that she's not a freak, that there's nothing wrong with her just because she wants to experience love without jealousy and possession.
And the sex scenes weren't even sexy! They were awkward and uncomfortable.
Don't watch this movie, it sucked, and not just from a poly standpoint. The characters were detestable, the writing was deplorable, and I'm not sure if the acting was any good because the script they had to work with sucked big fat donkey balls.
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* I want to clarify what I mean by "pity-fuck" here. In a relationship, where two people care about each other and want to support each other, it is common for one person to do things for the other that they might not necessarily wish to do on their own. That, if it wasn't for their partner wanting to do it, they wouldn't do at all. Sometimes, this even extends to sex. People's reasons for having sex are complex, and "I want to do this thing that will make you happy and feel better because I love you" can be a valid reason for having sex. This is not what I'm talking about.
The way that I'm using it, "pity-fuck" means to have sex with someone because you feel *sorry* for them or you are being challenged. It's a condescending, arrogant sort of "help" where the reasons for doing it center around the person doing the "favor", not on the person who wants the help - being a "white knight" or a "florence nightingale" or to "prove" one's virility / masculinity / sexual orientation / attractiveness / whatever or maybe even just to shut up someone's whining because it's annoying. It's sort of like "little white lies" in this way. When a person who is suffering from an insecurity or low self-esteem has people doing "favors" for them because these people feel sorry for them (as opposed to empathizing with them), it often makes them feel worse because they then can't trust the sincerity of those people in that or other contexts.
So, for example, let's say that Bob feels unattractive. He feels ugly and unlovable. Now let's say that Sally feels sorry for him and wants to have sex with him to boost his self-esteem. But that doesn't actually mean that Sally finds him attractive. If Bob learns (or knows) that Sally is just having sex with him to make him feel better, but that she doesn't actually find him attractive, that doesn't solve the problem that Bob has, which is that he feels unattractive. The wanting of the sex is a symptom of, or incidental to, feelings about one's physical appearance. All that this kind of pity-fuck is liable to do is reinforce Bob's insecurity by supporting the hypothesis that he is unattractive and it calls into question in his mind any other time any other girl ever had sex with him or told him that he was attractive. If Sally's goal was to help Bob, she failed. She only set up a reinforcing cycle where Bob has plenty of reasons not to trust Sally anymore or even to trust anyone else because he can't count on sex as a sign that someone finds him attractive. Now, we can argue whether or not he *should* count on sex for that reason, but the point is that Sally wanted to make him feel attractive by having sex with him, and now he does not feel attractive just because she had sex with him.
Little white lies do the same thing. If you are willing to lie about a compliment just to make someone feel better, then they have reason to question the sincerity of every compliment they get, either from you or from anyone, because they can't tell the difference between a sincere compliment and a lie intended to make them feel better. This does not help solve the underlying problem and it does not fix things in the long run. And, depending on where in the cycle the other person is with respect to the pity-fuck or the little white lies or whatever it is you're using to "help" them, it may not even fix things in the short run. It may actually make things worse for them right away. And, if they're the ones demanding it of you and it's not addressing the root issue, they'll just keep demanding it of you because it's not addressing the root issue. Kinda like most rules in poly relationships. If you really want to help someone, you have to address the root issue, not the symptom. Using sex to address a surface issue is not helpful and, because of all the ways our culture has fucked up sex, it'll probably just make things worse. So, don't do anyone any "favors" by having sex with them because you feel sorry for them or to "prove" something.
Show Notes >