A game cast has fun with ‘ Death’

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Gary Gold­stein

No sex­ual fan­tasy goes un­pun­ished — or at least greatly mis­man­aged — in the dark Aussie com­edy “The Lit­tle Death.” Wri­ter­di­rec­tor- ac­tor Josh Law­son takes on ro­man­tic en­nui, fetishism, com­mit­ment pho­bia, cou­ples coun­sel­ing and more with mixed re­sults.

Al­ter­nately silly and provoca­tive, strained and funny, the f ilm looks mainly at a quar­tet of sub­ur­ban Syd­ney cou­ples, each at a cross­roads in their re­la­tion­ship. The uni­fy­ing thread: Off­beat sex­ual mea­sures are seem­ingly re­quired to f ix what’s bro­ken in each pair­ing.

For the un­mar­ried Paul ( Law­son) and Maeve ( Bo­jana No­vakovic), it’s ful­fill­ing Maeve’s se­cret rape fan­tasy. Dan ( Damon Her­ri­man) and wife Evie ( Kate Mul­vany) get caught up in role­play­ing. Rowena ( Kate Box) f inds du­bi­ous ways to make hubby Pa­trick ( Pa­trick Bram­mall) cry to sat­isfy her dacryphilia ( sob­bing as a turn- on). Phil ( Alan Dukes) takes to drug­ging aw­ful wife Mau­reen ( Lisa McCune) into slum­ber be­cause he’s aroused by watch­ing her sleep. Com­pli­ca­tions abound for each duo to vary­ing de­grees of nar­ra­tive suc­cess.

A late- break­ing f ifth sce­nario in­volves Mon­ica ( Erin James), a trans­la­tor for the deaf staffed at a video re­lay ser­vice, who must act as a go- be­tween for the hearingim­paired Sam ( T. J. Power) and an im­pa­tient phone sex worker ( Genevieve Heg­ney). The vi­gnette, wor­thy of its own one- act play, has far more hu­mor and ap­peal than ev­ery­thing that comes be­fore.

A game cast, in­clud­ing Kim Gyn­gell as a for­mer sex of­fender with bak­ing skills, goes a long way in selling Law­son’s hard- work­ing ma­te­rial. Ironic use of such Top 40 throw­backs as “Brand New Key” by Me­lanie and “Make It With You” by Bread is a fun touch.

As for the wink­ing ti­tle, it’s the English trans­la­tion of a French id­iom for “or­gasm.” “The Lit­tle Death.” No MPAA rat­ing. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 36 min­utes. Play­ing: Sun­dance Sunset Cine­mas, West Hol­ly­wood. Also on video on de­mand.

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