Friday, July 18, 2014

The Not-So Joy Of iSex, With Heads & Tails In Clouds

Jason Segel as Jay and Cameron Diaz as Annie in Jake Kasdan's comedy "Sex Tape".

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, July 18, 2014

When Frank Sinatra sang "Love And Marriage" decades ago there was a reason he didn't mention sex.  Over time the furious carnal longings get tamed, and in "Sex Tape", a funny, nonsensical farce, ten-year weds Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) try rekindling the joy of "nasty" by recording their sex play.  With two pre-teen kids sex won't be easy to do or endure, nor will the ridiculous premise of forgetting to erase the sex video on their iPad sex video.  The good-looking couple and their kids live in Southern California, the headquarters of Botox, bodies and biceps.  Sex?  Ha!  Should be a breeze, right?  Not so fast, voyeurs.

The weird, ironic thing is, Jay and Annie create their sex tape as a public show rather than a private intimate moment that just happens to be caught by a fixed and recording video camera.  When Jay "forgets" to erase their session, Apple's technology takes over, and in a 24-hour odyssey that's more puritan paranoia than foreboding "Eyes Wide Shut" sex trip, Annie and Jay's fear of exposure rather than of sex -- they have sex for three hours -- takes over.  Jay, a tech guru and iPad sync lord, has his insecurities.  Annie, whose blog on being a married mom has a potential business suitor (Rob Lowe), is worried her career opportunity will be tarnished by any public airing of the tape, which iCloud has broadcast to every iPad owner under Jay's reach.  The race to recover all of the iPads he has given out is on.

Jake Kasdan, who directed Ms. Diaz in the better and raunchier "Bad Teacher", fumbles the ball here with characters shallower than dishwater.  I get that "Sex Tape" isn't supposed to make sense, thanks to a weak script co-written by Mr. Segel.  I get that the laughs (mostly non-sex related) are plentiful at times, and while for me that alone was, and for many will be enough, the way "Sex Tape" addresses sex and intimacy between married adults with kids is, predictably, by not really dealing with it at all. 

Only one character poses a question about why Annie and Jay need to have sex to begin with.  As in most Hollywood films it is a question of interest, and like most Hollywood films it quickly gets bypassed, an ephemeral musing left twisting in a madcap whirlwind.  Annie and Jay talk about sex more than they appear to have it.  They talk sex and do it at breakneck Hawksian pace.  They never are seen to enjoy sex, though.  Near the start of "Sex Tape", and especially in its climax, no pun intended, sex is rushed and awkward.  That's surely Mr. Kasdan's obvious point -- 21st century married couples have less time to enjoy each other -- notably when their kids are far from leaving home.  Yet Annie and Jay from L.A., or make that Thousand Oaks, have bundles of energy for parents with kids.  Where do they get three hours from?  

The fleeting, frenzied sex in "Sex Tape" is a metaphor for America's skittishness about it.  In the film, sex is an object and Annie and Jay's performance of it a judgment.  In the 21st century tech world we live in sex is an object for instant voyeurism on an iPad, rather than an experience or meaningful personal event.  In "Sex Tape" the verdict of judgment where sex is concerned is in the eye of the beholder, including a manipulative minor who is the son of Annie and Jay's friends (Rob Corddry and Elle Kemper), who, by the way, are galvanized by Annie and Jay's not-so accidental exhibition.  The sex throughout "Sex Tape" is clumsy and anything but pleasurable. 

The other ironic aspect is that Annie and Jay's marathon sex is owed to Alex Comfort's The Joy Of Sex, the famous 1970s book that illustrates and discusses every sexual position you can imagine.  That book, which perhaps everyone in the world over 50 owns a copy of, is used by the couple, and it evokes and champions intimacy, comfort, love and a sensuality "Sex Tape" itself lacks.  In "Sex Tape" the idea is that sex is not for feeling or bonding or expressing love but solely for show, a commodity seen not felt, laughed at not languished over.  Jay and Annie's technology-enhanced video romp is the updated version of Joy that isn't Comfort-able at all.  The how-to manual Annie and Jay leave behind isn't one of pretty pictures.  Those days are long gone. 

There's also the film's schizophrenia/juxtaposition of porn, peddled through an endless plugging of porn web sites.  There's the strange mix of sex and juvenility throughout -- an odd mix of a fear of sex (and by extension, of children.)  These elements, symbolic or otherwise, are in close proximity on numerous occasions.  These variables lurk, perhaps, because unprotected sex (aka potential uninhibited joy and pleasure or unbridled nightmare) means procreation.  It's a deeply rooted realization that may underline (Annie's and Jay's?) married couples' fears about sex that don't show up in "Sex Tape" but are implied, embedded within its subtext.

I haven't even mentioned Ms. Diaz, whose own Body Book does more to acquaint you with the intimacies of your body and its reactions to one of America's two biggest must-haves than "Sex Tape" does.  In Mr. Kasdan's wacky film Ms. Diaz is her own best advertisement for fantasy, letting her hair down and her body up.  If you've got it, flaunt it, they say, and she does.  Ms. Diaz's comedy is largely manic, while Mr. Segel, who looks oddly half-ill, half-dead or both, is Mr. Physical Comedy, plain exhausted by dogs, sex, and body talk.  "Sex Tape", which takes some bewildering detours to hide its thin material, has lots of fast, moving parts but none are memorable.  It's a funny old foolish frolic and detour.

"Sex Tape" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.  Its running time is one hour and 39 minutes.

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