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