What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!
If you had insomnia at one in the morning, you could have turned over to Starz Comedy and watched the 1988 comedy, Casual Sex? That’s what I just did!
I have to admit that I’m a little bit surprised that this is the first insomnia file that I’ve written since last July. It’s not like I haven’t had insomnia between then and now. However, I guess I’ve been busy either going on vacation, writing about horror movies, writing about the Oscars, or, of course, writing about reality TV over at the Big Brother Blog and Reality TV Chat Blog. That said, I’ve always enjoyed writing these insomnia files and I’m happy to finally have the chance to do a new one.
I’m also happy to have the chance to write about a film called Casual Sex?, if just because I know that it will lead to the site getting a lot of hits from people doing google searches. They probably won’t actually be looking for a movie review but a hit is a hit!
Anyway, Casual Sex? is an 80s film. In fact, it’s such an 80s film that it probably spent the 90s recovering from an expensive coke habit. It’s a film about two best friends who have decided that they’re tired of being single. Stacy (Lea Thompson) is the promiscuous one, the one who has had many partners, has gotten involved in way too many needy relationships, and who is now freaking out over the spread of AIDS. Melissa (Victoria Jackson) is the sweet but ditzy one. Melissa has had boyfriends but she’s never had an orgasm. When Stacy tells her about an article she read about AIDS, Melissa replies that at least now she’s “not the only one who is afraid of sex.” Hoping to each find a permanent mate, Stacy and Melissa go to a health spa. Stacy immediately falls madly in love with Nick (Stephen Shellen), an aspiring musician. Melissa, meanwhile, meets the sensitive and sweet-natured Jamie (Jerry Levine), who works at the spa and gives a killer massage. Meanwhile, an annoying guy named Vinny (Andrew Dice Clay) pursues both of them and everyone else as well.
(Vinny leers at every woman that he sees and prefers to be known as the Vin Man. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe that he’s still single.)
Casual Sex? actually get off to a really good start. It opened with both Stacy and Melissa standing on an empty stage and discussing their sexual histories. Usually, I cringe whenever a movie opens with a character standing on a blank stage and talking directly to the audience. It usually feels like a lazy storytelling technique to me. (Can’t figure out a natural way to let the audience know a character’s backstory? Have them talk to directly to the audience! It’s easy and lazy!) But in Casual Sex?, this technique actually works. Lea Thompson and Victoria Jackson both give very natural and believable performances and the flashbacks to their previous experiences are all well-done and sometimes painfully relatable. Despite the fact that the film was made 30 years ago, their experiences and emotions felt timeless.
After that strong opening, the rest of the film was much more uneven. I have to admit that I had trouble telling how much of the film was meant to be satirical and how much of it was just a reflection of the time in which it was made. For instance, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be rolling my eyes at Nick, with his feathered hair and his overdramatic style of singing, or if that was just what was considered to be hot in the 80s. It was very confusing but, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, it was hard to take Nick seriously as anything more than a plot device. As a result, it was difficult to care about his relationship with Stacy. Melissa’s relationship with Jamie was far more interesting, largely because Jerry Levine was so likable in the role.
(Just in case anyone was wondering, Casual Sex? does feature a lot of sex but very little of it feels casual. Perhaps that’s why the title ends with a question mark. “Casual sex?” the film asks before answering, “No.”)
The film was ultimately too uneven to really be considered to be a success but I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. That was largely because of the performances of Lea Thompson, Victoria Jackson, and Jerry Levine. There’s a few scenes where Vinny drops his bluster and reveals a sensitive side and Andrew Dice Clay does well with these scenes but, ultimately, it’s hard to like anyone known as The Vin Man. I mean, he even has “Vin Man” written on the back of his jacket. Strangely, Clay’s performance here felt like an early version of his performance in Blue Jasmine, almost as if the Vin Man eventually changed his name to Augie and ended up marrying the sister-in-law of a Ponzi scheme manager.
Casual Sex? may not be great but it’s good enough for when you’re awake at one in the morning.
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