Third wheel doesn’t ensure a smooth ride
Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family 10.05pm, SBS
THE menage a trois is one of the gold standards of sexual fantasy ( or so I’ve read), but one that relatively few get to live out. After the birth of my daughter, I remember the woman sharing the hospital room with my wife sitting against her mountain of pillows, looking at her new baby and her partner lying beside her.
Her voice was tired but there was no mistaking the sardonic edge: ‘‘ There, darling, we finally got that three- in- a- bed scenario we’ve always talked about.’’
Some make it beyond the talk, but probably not quite like the trio in this surprisingly sweet if ultimately deflating exploration of the fluidity of human sexuality. Sam and Steven — two gay New Yorkers in a long- term relationship — decide that what’s missing in their lives is a woman. Surprisingly, it’s the deeply camp Sam — his floridly expressive eyebrows ought to be assigned an agent of their own — who floats the idea.
After trial and error with one woman who’s only in it for the sex, and another who falls in love with one of the men but not the other, they discover Samantha from Toronto. Mutual besottedness blossoms into love, then a three- way marriage, and eventually pregnancy and parenthood, tenderly captured over eight years by director Susan Kaplan.
The trio is magnetic — especially Sam — but so are some of the cameos, notably Steven’s mother, Marion, who speaks with a Brooklyn accent and Yoda- like syntax (‘‘ Too happy? I don’t think they were’’).
Marion admits she’s been well prepared for the weirdness of life by watching Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake and Sally Jessy Raphael.
Then there’s Sam’s mother Dutchie. Once upon a time she was willing to ‘‘ beat the shit’’ out of Sam if he turned out gay; now she’s ecstatic because his relationship has lasted longer than those of any of her other offspring.
We never meet Sam’s father — now doing 45 years for murder — but we certainly hear about him. His response from jail to his son’s coming out went thus: ‘‘ I know people will be so against you that as your father it gives me great pain to think of all the suffering you may have to endure. But on the other hand, it would have been worse news if you told me you wanted to be a cop.’’
Life hums along sweetly, but things begin to falter some time after the birth of their first child, Siena. Sam, Steven and Samantha begin to talk in ever larger slabs of psycho- babble, carting themselves off to their shrinks as they begin the descent from glorious experiment in love to ordinary, flawed humanity.
Three’s company: Sam, Samantha and Steven form an unlikely family