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Sex With Strangers (Unrated)
Showtime Networks Inc.
Official Site
Director: Joe and Harry Gantz
Producers: Joe and Harry Gantz

Rating: out of 5


The desire to have sex is a natural impulse, and for the most part, a healthy one, but there’s something decidedly unnatural and downright disturbing about the copulating couples in the new documentary Sex With Strangers. If they were simply fictional characters in a narrative film, perhaps it would be possible to accept these strangers’ deviant ways; but the film is a “real life” peek into real peoples’ lives, and as a result, we’re left with the feeling that these subjects are profoundly deranged. The fact that we’re alienated by the couples’ bizarre lives makes Sex With Strangers as hollow as, well, sex with strangers.

The three couples we follow are James and Theresa, Shannon and Gerard, and Calvin, Sara, and Julie. The first couple, James and Theresa, travel throughout the nation in their motor home, periodically stopping at seedy roadside bars to seek out couples who are eager to indulge in swinging. Why James and Theresa or the couples they pick up are willing to have sex with each other is perhaps the greatest cinematic mystery since "Who is Keyser Soze?" yet they do it anyway, and I suppose directors Joe and Harry Gantz expect us to find it titillating, sensual, or at the very least, interesting. Unfortunately, Sex With Strangers is even more vapid than the Gantz’s “Taxicab Confessions.” The only thing it leaves us wondering is what level of embarrassment their family and friends are currently suffering.

The next couple is Shannon and Gerard, who are slightly more complex than James and Theresa, and should feel even more ashamed because of it. After all, here’s a couple with a young daughter at home, and while they try to shield her from their lifestyle, wouldn’t it be more prudent just to give it up? That idea seems fine with Shannon, who appears somewhat nervous about swinging, but Gerard decides if she won’t swing, he’ll swing without her. They lead an immensely harmful marriage, which is made to seem even more unhealthy as they divulge their lifestyle to one of their mothers. Whereas sex used to be a private matter, Sex With Strangers expects us to applaud its subjects’ openness, which proves nothing less than impossible—it’s like admiring a guest on “Jerry Springer.”

The last couple—or more appropriately, threesome—is Calvin, Sara, and Julie. The problem with three-ways is that one person is always left feeling like the fat kid who didn’t get picked to play dodgeball, and in this case, Calvin is definitely the fat kid, though he refuses to cop to it. Calvin wants all the goodies for himself, and whines like an overgrown baby when Sara and Julie decide to get it on sans mister man. Of course, most women know that there’s something supremely unsatisfying about a series of wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am encounters, something Calvin is slow to understand.

On a similar note, audiences know there is something supremely unsatisfying about a documentary that has no real point, and no real points of interest. In comparison to recent sex-themed documentaries such as Porn Star and Wad, Sex with Strangers is one limp noodle.

—Erin Steele

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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