A sweeter, gen­tler kind of teen sex com­edy

Chicago Sun-Times - - WEEKEND PLUS - BY RICHARD ROEPER, MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­times.com | @RichardERo­eper

For all its sharp barbs at Catholic school hypocrisy and its frank de­pic­tions of mas­tur­ba­tion and teenage hookups, “Yes, God, Yes” some­how re­tains a breezy and even sweet dis­po­si­tion, thanks to the light touch of writer-di­rec­tor Karen Maine and an ab­so­lutely win­ning per­for­mance by “Stranger Things” star Na­talia Dyer as a 16-year-old school­girl who is si­mul­ta­ne­ously ex­plor­ing her sex­u­al­ity while com­bat­ting nasty gos­sip about her per­form­ing a cer­tain ac­tiv­ity with a class­mate who has a girl­friend.

I can’t even de­scribe the term for this par­tic­u­lar act. (Or should I say, I’d rather not.) Suf­fice to say Dyer’s Alice not only didn’t per­form it, she has no idea what it even means, which makes it all the more

hi­lar­i­ous ev­ery time she re­peats the phrase to the amuse­ment of oth­ers.

While the ma­te­rial may be ob­jec­tion­able to some, this Ro­man Catholic found it to be hi­lar­i­ous and en­gag­ing. Sure, much of the hu­mor is over the top, but there are es­sen­tial truths ring­ing through­out.

“Yes, God, Yes” is set at a Catholic high school in the Mid­west in the early 2000s. With pe­riod-piece songs such as Col­lec­tive Soul’s “Shine” on the sound­track, Alice has be­gun to ex­plore her sex­u­al­ity. She logs onto an AOL Chat Room where a cou­ple sends her provoca­tive pho­tos, and this is when Alice dis­cov­ers the joys of mas­tur­ba­tion, much to her sur­prise. (The scene is not graphic, and is played mostly for gen­tle laughs.)

Mean­while, some­one has started a ru­mor about Alice hook­ing up with the hand­some and dopey Wade (Parker Wier­ling). Alice is la­beled a “slut,” and even her best friend (Francesca Reale, also of “Stranger Things”) be­gins to doubt her. At a week­end re­treat, Alice dis­cov­ers the school priest (Ti­mothy Simons) isn’t as righ­teous as he claims to be and cer­tain class­mates who are preach­ing celibacy aren’t prac­tic­ing what they preach.

At one point, Alice lit­er­ally runs away from the camp, and winds up in a bar where she meets a les­bian and lapsed Catholic (Su­san Blackwell in a scene-steal­ing cameo), who does a bet­ter job of men­tor­ing the girl in five min­utes than her teach­ers have done over the en­tire se­mes­ter. It’s in that mo­ment we know Alice doesn’t have an easy road ahead, but she’s bright and kind and good, and she’ll find the path that suits her best. She de­serves to be happy.

VER­TI­CAL EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

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