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Saturday, November 10, 2012

"The Sessions" Leaves You Hot and Bothered for the All the Wrong Reasons [REVIEW]

What's the difference between a sex surrogate and a prostitute? Love, apparently, according to writer/director Ben Lewin's new drama, The Sessions.

After watching the movie, the jury's still out on how the rest of us feel on the subject. Despite the debatable question it asks, the movie itself is quite simple while quirky: John Hawkes (Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene, Winter's Bone) stars as Mark, a disabled man bound to an iron lung who develops a strong hankering for sex after going without all his life. He talks candidly with his priest Father Brendan (William H. Macy) about it, much to both his discomfort and fascination, and even professes his unrequited desire to one of his aides, until he resorts to using a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets) to help him lose his virginity. 

This is the first time in the movie when the audience asks why wouldn't anyone who's lonely with extra money not just use a sex surrogate to assist them with their "needs?" It seems easy enough, and legal. And the movie validates the use of a sex surrogate as someone with which you could form a relationship. That's where it spins off its wheels, and comes dangerously close to a Pretty Woman-esque romantic comedy. Meaning, all of a sudden after being able to perform her job professionally as a sex surrogate for presumably years, she encounters one man--albeit, a very charming one--for whom she falls? That's hard to believe. 

But, hey, at least the fellas--and some of you ladies--will be treated to a naked Hunt for about 75% of the time. So, I guess that's something. Hawkes' quips and Macy's spot-on delivery certainly couldn't carry the film on their own. Granted, the touching performances are highlights of the movie that would otherwise sink on its own. The story isn't as provocative as it tries to be, and the contrived romance is just as frustrating to watch unfold. It takes you out of the more compelling plotline, which is Mark's interest in sex as it relates to a rite of passage for him in his late 30s and only able to move his head. 

Turning this movie into something more than that, and ultimately riddling it with clichés makes it hard to like. Kind of like expecting a booty call but getting the pizza delivery guy instead. Just a real letdown. 

Rating: C-

The Sessions is playing in limited theaters now. Watch the trailer below:


Dusty said...

This is the first review I've read of The Sessions that is not positively glowing. And I applaud you for being honest. I have not seen this yet; but I did have some concerns about it dodging the bullet (meaning the subject matter) in favor of an overly simplistic Hollywood-esque treatment. It sounds like that is what happened. In other words, I'll wait for the DVD and lower my expectations.

Nice review!

Brittani Burnham said...

Come to think of it, every other review just talks about the performances and none question the plot like you did. You're probably right about me being lucky to miss this. Daniel Craig nude > Helen Hunt nude.

Gaby said...

Sad to hear it's pretty cliche. It looked like it was something different. Maybe I'll redbox it... one day.

Dankwa Brooks said...

Well Candice I have to disagree with you. I DID NOT think that the surrogate (Hunt) fell in love with the client (Hawkes). I did think she developed feelings for him like for a child or a dog. As crude as that sounds.

I think on the Cinema in Noir podcast you questioned the whole letter thing as confusing (why would she do that?), but I thought she was just fascinated, like most women are, with the attention. I did not think for a second she was unhappy with her life or wanted to "leave her husband" for this man.

I found the whole thing charming and sweet and I won't be mad if it gets numerous nominations in the awards circuit.

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