joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Oh. Gourd. This movie. There's so much to hate about this movie. Where to even begin? First start at the beginning. And when you come to the end, stop. Scratch that. You'll probably be asking me to stop much sooner than the end. Anyway, here goes.

This movie stars an all-B-lister cast, with the likes of Jason Alexander and Jonathan Silverman and Patrick Dempsey and Angie Everhardt, so not terrible actors. We meet the 3 main couples in the first scene at a dinner party. There's the feminist man who's hopelessly devoted to respecting his pregnant fiance and she's characterized by her absolute trust and faith in him. They have this pleasantly, non-threatening sort of progressive relationship that's all liberal, but in a quiet, unassuming sort of way. He spends most of his time trying to distance himself from the asshole Neanderthal men around him.

Next is the ball-busting, opinionated photographer and her husband. Most of what we see of her is her neuroses. More on that later. He doesn't seem to have anything redeeming about himself to make him stand out in my mind, other than "her husband". I'm not even sure what he does for a living. Finally we have the Jewish attorney who cheated on his first wife with his current wife, and the current wife who, in spite of once being someone's mistress, is naively in love with the idea of monogamy and fidelity and Twue Wuv.

To stir up the pot, the lawyer invites a writer who is a client of his to his little dinner party. Jason Alexander shows up playing the role of cynical misanthropist to shatter the illusions off the happily monogamous couples, named Art. His character really pisses me off because he's the role that someone like me would be in at a real dinner party, except he's written by someone who hates him and so portrays that role as a misogynist Radical Truther asshole. He pulls out the usual tropes, such as "dogs don't have the artificial restraints put on their biology that people do," and he coins the phrase "The Monogamy Denial" which is the title of his book, stating that all people are inherently non-monogamous but men especially are because evo-psych biological urges, must hump everything, reasons. Blegh. My sweetie watching this with me curled his lip at the character and called him "smarmy". Art is everything I detest about the circles I run in - skeptical, atheist, non-monogamous, alt-sex lifestylers basically using pop evo-psych to justify being shitheads and walking all over people's dignity in the name of "honesty" and "nature".

Remember, this is the opening scene. Things go downhill from here. So Art starts spouting his "monogamy is unnatural" bullshit (and I say that as someone who doesn't believe that the human species is inherently monogamous even if some individuals are), and immediately, I mean, with no lead up, the photographer lady gets righteously pissed off, saying "are you insinuating that we are not monogamous, what the hell do you know? Fuck you!" So everyone tries to calm her down and change the subject, but Art keeps pushing the issue, and the party breaks up early. Each couple goes home ruminating about his "truths" in their own fashion, some wondering if men really are inherently non-monogamous (men, not people, men), some angry at the implications, some taking pity on him and trying to armchair psychoanalyze him as having some sort of pathetically bad experience to make him bitter.

Next we're introduced to a whole supporting cast of detestable characters designed to support Art's position. The lawyer's brother, for example, is a chubby-chaser - a guy who fetishizes fat women - with an anger management problem. He manages to make a totally reasonable position of someone who relishes the physical experience of sex with different body types and still come off sounding like a disgusting creep. He is also opposed to marriage and believes that monogamy is unnatural. Of course.

The feminist man, Sam, is a chef in a restaurant who has a coworker of some sort who fulfills the role of the misogynistic guy who believes women are just cum receptacles there for his pleasure. Sam is, to his credit, outwardly and outspokenly appalled at misogynist's behaviour. But when a feminist woman coworker pops her head in to complain, she has to be written as a bitchy feminazi who disapproves of both men and yells at both of them even though Sam was clearly and verbally opposed to Misogynist Man's behaviour. Then the writers reduce her to a sex object by having her stomp off in a huff, still mad at both men, while Misogynist Man leers at her butt and comments on it, and Sam can't help himself from gazing at it walking away either. Yes, I said "it" and not "her". Because the camera zooms in on her ass.

The rest of the movie is a series of scenes of the men being unable to remain fidelitous to their wives in various contexts, each one questioning whether or not this really "counts" as cheating. Does it count as cheating if he masturbates to porn and goes to blue movies? Does it count as cheating if it's a happy ending handjob at a massage parlor? Does it count as cheating if you pick up a hot chick at a hockey game and take her back to her house and loudly fuck her while your buddy sits in the living room with her friend in awkward silence?

The entire movie is nothing but a reinforcement of gender role bullshit. But, remember, the original premise was that monogamy is unnatural for everyone, so the women don't get away scott-free either. It's just that men, apparently, are more likely to cheat and to do so for purely physical reasons (as we're reminded continuously from the justification monologues throughout the film) and women have more complicated reasons for cheating or not cheating. So, enter the wives.

Claudia, the photographer, waits until nearly the end of the movie to seduce Art. Remember, the woman who blew up with no build-up at even the insinuation that she wasn't monogamous? Specifically at the same guy she is now fucking? So Art asks her about it, and she admits that she and her husband have a DADT arrangement. He comments on the hypocrisy of her defending monogamy at the dinner party and she just says that her sex life is no one else's business. Then we learn that Art doesn't actually believe any of the stuff he was spouting at the party, he just said them to see what the reactions would be for research for his next book.

The lawyer's wife (and former mistress), the one who seems like a freaking Disney character with her big innocent eyes and adamant attachment to fidelity and Twue Wuv, develops a crush on her professor in med school and they have an affair. Meanwhile, the lawyer is wracked with Jewish guilt over the happy ending at the massage parlor and the handjob from the friend while waiting awkwardly for his buddy to finish having sex in the next room. So he tells her about it, she freaks out, he reminds her that she wanted complete honesty, and she graciously forgives him while warning him how difficult it will be to gain her trust back. She never once admits to her infidelity, which was "worse" because she had sex but was somehow justifiable because it involved "feelings". Or something.

Sammy, the pregnant fiance of the feminist chef Sam who likes porn, meanwhile finds one of his videos and completely freaks out thanks to her man-hating sister who was cheated on once and now thinks all men are pigs and will cheat. The sister convinces her that porn automatically leads to real sex. So Sammy hires a detective to follow Sam around and discovers his penchant for blue movie theaters. Convinced that he must also be having sex with women all over the place, they set him up with an "operative" who is "prepared to go all the way" to get the evidence for his cheating. But, as Sammy watches from the surveillance van down the street (seriously), Sam proves himself to be worthy of her love and doesn't bow to the seduction, confessing his devotion and love to his beautiful pregnant fiance.

This movie reinforces gender roles, evo-psych justifications, a cynical view of love, and yet still manages to also reinforce monogamy and social expectations. All the couples remain in their couples, only with lies and secrets and guilt between them, and they all end smiling at Sam & Sammy's wedding in a veneer of happiness with the implication that all is as it should be - cheating husbands and all.

I think the best summary for this movie was given by my sweetie when I asked him what he thought. He said, "It was almost a good movie. It had a budget, it had decent actors, it had locations and nice sets, it had some funny moments. It was almost a good movie except for that bit in the middle. Where they talked."


~Reviews by Joreth - I watch the crap so you don't have to.
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