- Speaking of Sex: Reviews -

The producers are not quite sure what to call this movie -- "Speaking of Sex" in Europe, "Mr. Happy" in North America. The title dilemma is emblematic of this sex comedy because it gyrates among numerous satirical targets: sex therapists, lawyers, the insurance industry, big medicine. It's topped by a deliriously loopy supporting performance from Bill Murray as a rabid insurance-defense lawyer. What Murray did for "Rushmore," he's likely to do for John McNaughton's comic sex-capade, which had its world premiere at the 37th annual Chicago International Film Festival.

With Murray's deadpan foolery and enough cunning lingual jokery to fuel 10 seasons of "Sex and the City," the film would seem to have a happy time in college towns and big cities. And, in the jargon of the movie, it could stroke steamy dates as a video rental. Look for Murray to garner critical honors come high awards season, which should further seduce audiences.

Dan and Melinda (Jay Mohr and Melora Walters), a Boise, Idaho, couple, are having sack trouble, which causes Melinda to seek a sex therapist, whom she finds on a bus-stop bench advertisement. Not surprisingly, the sex guru, Dr. Emily Paige (Lara Flynn Boyle), is about as helpful as a 976 number. But she at least pawns Melinda off on a depression wiz.

A slightly funny thing happens on the way to the depression guy: Melinda has elevator sex, and it turns out it's with the shrink she was going to see, Dr. Klink (James Spader). However, Klink has a raging case of male menopause complete with a little red Corvette. When word of his professional dalliance gets back to Emily, she goes nutso, filing a grievance with a watchdog medical organization that is out to cut off the, er, license of any therapist making it with a patient.

While "Sex" flounces along in this jagged, old-style "Love, American Style" plot line crammed with verbal and slapstick boobery, it is stroked with zany asides. Admittedly hyperactive and skewering everything in its path, "Sex" is packed with enough brainy satirical salvos to overcome the overly excited narrative, a credit to screenwriter Gary Tieche's fertile humor.

Buffed, coifed and big-hatted, Murray oozes manipulation and insincerity as trial lawyer Ezri Stovall. With a slick blue tie and faux cowboy hat, Murray doles out lethal high-mountain justice to those who dare to take on the Idaho medical insurance establishment. Murray's droll delivery, dismissive glances and utterly high-handed demeanor are a hoot throughout, easily the high mark of the comedy.

Under McNaughton's direction, the performances are ripe with inspired nuttiness, including most prominently Catherine O'Hara as a lusty corporate lawyer and Spader as the frazzled Freudian.

When jokes flounder and Murray is not around, the comedy is juiced by production designer Joseph T. Garrity's loony concoctions, including Murray's dizzy High Plains lawyer office complete with stuffed bear and pretentious Remington rip-offs. Similarly, Kimberly A. Tillman's wiggy costumes are a droll indictment of the Potato State's unique sartorial splendor.

By Duane Byrge for The Hollywood Reporter

Speaking of Sex ***1/2
Reviewed By George O. Singleton

Honesty First

Melinda: Melora Walters
Dan: Jay Mohr
Connie: Catherine O'Hara
Joel: Phil LaMarr
Dr. Roger Klink: James Spader
Dr. Emily Paige: Lara Flynn Boyle
Ezri: Bill Murray
Director: John McNaughton

30 Second Bottom Line: A couple whose marriage is on the rocks because of their inability to have sex, seeks marriage counseling only to find that they get much more than they bargained for.

Story Line: Melinda and Dan (Melora Walters and Jay Mohr) are a dysfunctional couple with him needing Viagra with her but not with a waitress that he is banging. As some will tell you, the biggest sex organ is between your ears. The film starts out with shrink Dr. Roger Klink (James Spader) breaking into a motel room where Melinda and Dan are "getting reaquatinted" after becoming jealous because of his emotional bond due to the affair he is having with Melinda.

Skirting appropriateness relationships with their patients, Melinda and Dan get at best questionable counseling from Connie (Catherine O'Hara), Dr. Klink and Dr. Paige (Lara Flynn Boyle) who each have their own agendas. Getting all of the relationships straight is a laugh a minute and it's fun to see Boyle yucking it up and having fun in something other than the serious TV show, The Practice..

Tell Me More About It: This is a whacked out comedy that is pure fun with it's over the top performance by Lara Flynn Boyle. Bill Murray is the best I've ever seen him. Melora Walters who was intensely serious in Magnolia, is equally focused here, but with the emphasis on comedy.

The sex is sexy without the intensity of a film like Intimacy. What you see there is only hinted at here, which for the majority of folks is the right amount of on screen sex.

Films like this are what Hollywood tends to do best. It's all about fun, you like the ending, there is nothing too serious, the focus is on entertainment and the events themselves are not hooky with improbable action that you are asked to take seriously. It's a screwball comedy that is a hoot, which reminds me of The Closet, but you don't have to read any subtitles. Go see this and have a blast..

Not Yet Rated
George O. Singleton © 2001

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