You yawn

This un­funny, porny put-on is sure to tit­il­late ab­so­lutely no one, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE


Di­rected by Jake Kas­dan. Star­ring Cameron Diaz, Ja­son Segel, Rob Corddry, El­lie Kem­per, Rob Lowe 16 cert, 94 min There have been worse years for the film in­dus­try than 2014. Nonethe­less, this gorm­less far­rago feels like the man­i­fes­ta­tion of a vast col­lec­tive ner­vous break­down. The rom­com has been with­er­ing into mulch ever since the Chick Flick gene was grafted onto its hith­erto ro­bust mol­e­cule. Men were re­pelled. Then women be­gan flee­ing the rot­ting corpse with hand­ker­chiefs pressed over crin­kled noses.

Hol­ly­wood faced a sim­i­lar dilemma in the early 1970s and re­acted by ask­ing its stars to drop un­der­wear in mildly risqué sex farces. The re­lent­lessly aw­ful Sex Tape feels like an equally mis­guided at­tempt to con­nect with elu­sive, slip­pery sprigs of the Zeit­geist.

As you will have almost cer­tainly guessed, the pic­ture con­cerns a cou­ple whose per­sonal sex tape – recorded to en­er­gise a flag­ging mar­riage – gets set loose on the dig­i­tal cloud. What we end up with is the very quin­tes­sence of a film that has no nat­u­ral au­di­ence.

It’s too sex­u­ally ex­plicit to play as a cosy date movie. It’s not ex­plicit enough to work as an erotic piece. Techno­phobes will not iden­tify with the end­less ref­er­ences to file-shar­ing pro­to­cols. The tech­ni­cally lit­er­ate will find the he­roes’ baf­fle­ment more ir­ri­tat­ing than amus­ing.

We be­gin with An­nie (Cameron Diaz) telling her mummy-fo­cused blog (and us) about the progress of her re­la­tion­ship with Jay (Ja­son Segel). In the first few weeks of their ro­mance, they have sex in all kinds of un­likely places and at all hours of the day and night.

Even­tu­ally An­nie be­comes preg­nant and the cou­ple in­form her par­ents that they in­tend to get mar­ried. “But you’re very, very young,” her re­luc­tant mother says. Aside from any­thing else, this is most un­kind to the film critic, who now must de­cide whether it’s po­lite to men­tion that Ms Diaz was born dur­ing Richard Nixon’s first term.

At any rate, An­nie and her “very, very young” beau – played by an ac­tor in his mid-30s – then dis­cover the per­ils of mat­ri­mony. It’s all rel­a­tive, of course. Given the nau­se­at­ing lux­ury of their lives, An­nie and Jay can prob­a­bly cope well enough with a diminu­tion of libido. She writes her blog on large white so­fas. Jay does some­thing or other in the mu­sic in­dus­try that pays well enough to al­low him to give away “used” iPads like other peo­ple do­nate worn socks.

Sex Tape abounds with such Chekho­vian guns over fire­places (the only men­tion of that Rus­sian play­wright you’ll meet in this re­view). Early on, the cou­ple’s son, work­ing on his school project, is urged to make sure to la­bel a film some­thing other than “Video 1”. Soon enough, such IT slop­pi­ness al­lows the tit­u­lar sex tape to be scat­tered about the ter­ri­to­ries.

The pic­ture does break ground in one unlovely area. When the his­tory of prod­uct place­ment comes to be writ­ten, Sex Tape will re­ceive a chap­ter all to it­self. For years, Sony films have been unique in their de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­sist the ad­vance of Ap­ple prod­ucts through the cin­e­matic uni­verse. It is no ac­ci­dent that Spi­der-Man uses a Sony Vaio lap­top and a Sony Xpe­ria phone. Yet Sex Tape is soaked in Ap­ple prod­ucts. What on earth is go­ing on? Does one wing of Sony not want its goods as­so­ci­ated with squalid do­ings in another of its wing’s films?

Much stranger still are the co­pi­ous ref­er­ences to a real-life porno­graphic web­site (which, of course, we won’t name) in the last, pan­icked act of the movie.

Some­thing prop­erly disturbing is go­ing on here. It seems as if th­ese en­ter­prises have now gained enough re­spectabil­ity to fea­ture in a film star­ring the man who wrote The Mup­pets. What a world.

Di­rected by Ed­ward Bur­tyn­sky, Jen­nifer Baich­wal

90 min

Club, IFI, Dublin, Well, it seems un­likely we will see any more over­pow­er­ing images in the cin­ema this year. Within its first 10 min­utes, Ed­ward Bur­tyn­sky’s com­bi­na­tion of visual poem and stealth polemic has of­fered at least three tableaux that will cause some con­tem­po­rary view­ers to ques­tion the truth be­fore their eyes. Were this a work of fic­tion, the open­ing shot of wa­ter plum­ing from China’s Xiaolangdi Dam would have lit­tle chance of pass­ing for any­thing other than CGI. It’s a dis­ease of the age.

It’s all real. Bur­tyn­sky is jus­ti­fi­ably fa­mous for his huge, im­pos­ing photographs of in­dus­trial land­scapes. Here, work­ing with Jen­nifer Baich­wal, he turns his at­ten­tion to man’s in­ter­ac­tions with wa­ter. Some­how or other, form and in­tent mesh to­gether ut­terly seam­lessly.

That is to say, vir­tu­ally ev­ery shot is beau­ti­ful and vir­tu­ally ever shot ad­dresses eco­log­i­cal con­cerns. The wa­ter­ways of a vast delta fan out like cap­il­lar­ies. While trav­el­ling along a crash­ing river, we can’t help but no­tice the ef­fects of log­ging on ei­ther bank. Oily sludge emerges from a tan­ning fa­cil­ity in Bangladesh.

Com­par­isons with vast visual epics such as Godfrey Reg­gio’s Koy­aanisqatsi are un­avoid­able. The am­bi­ent mu­sic, though ef­fec­tive, is not as over­pow­er­ing as Philip Glass’s score for that film. There is less ob­vi­ous for­ward mo­men­tum in the montage. But Bur­tyn­sky’s images are, if any­thing, even more be­witch­ing than those in Reg­gio’s pic­ture.

Water­mark is also a lit­tle more ex­plicit in its eco­log­i­cal mes­sage. “Be­cause I un­der­stand na­ture, I un­der­stand what was there be­fore we came,” Bur­tyn­sky says. “This is a lament for what is lost.”

That point is made most force­fully by the sheer im­plau­si­bil­ity of what the film-maker puts be­fore us. Can it be right to im­pose all th­ese cir­cu­lar ir­ri­gated fields across so many miles of Amer­i­can prairies? Should there re­ally be danc­ing foun­tains in the heart of Ne­vada?

A ter­ri­bly beau­ti­ful and beau­ti­fully ter­ri­ble piece of work.

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