Love Ranch – Helen Mirren deserves better

I had great hopes for Love Ranch, a film that takes place in a brothel, starring the beautiful, talented, and sensual 65-year-old Helen Mirren as the madam. Hurray, I thought, Mirren is playing a sexy, older woman. I heard that her character had steamy sex with a man decades younger — go, Helen!
The film started slowly — plodded, actually, though I laughed and applauded when Mirren’s character’s husband, played by Joe Pesci, challenged her, “Who do you think you are, the Queen of England?” Mirren is beautiful despite mostly conservative clothing and smudged lipstick, and the closeups of wrinkles made me happy that yes, finally, an older woman is being celebrated without trying to hide her age.
The film is based on a true story about the first legal brothel in Reno, Nevada. The script isn’t worthy of Mirren. It’s hackneyed, predictable, and not all that interesting. In fact, I have the movie on “pause” right now, minutes from the end, dreading the obvious finale.
There is one brief but steamy sex scene, all too short (hey, she’s an older woman — let’s take our time!), which seems thrown in so that people would be shocked by the show of passion between a young Argentine boxer (actor Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and a woman more than twice his age. Peris-Mencheta didn’t strike me as sexy or appealing, and she deserved more — both as a sensual woman and as an actress.
It’s astonishing to me that the director, Taylor Hackford, is Mirren’s husband. That’s likely the reason she agreed to do Love Ranch. It certainly wasn’t the flaccid script.
See a trailer here. The film is available from Netflix.

Orgasm Inc.: stunning expose of drug for fake disease

I just saw the film Orgasm Inc. You must see it. It’s a powerful expose of the medicalization of female sexuality, specifically the development and marketing of female sexual enhancement drugs based on a made-up “disease”: Female Sexual Dysfuncton (FSD).  The “disease” was created by drug companies so that they could sell drugs and procedures that have not been proven to work and have not been proven safe!

Filmmaker Liz Canner was hired by one of these drug companies, and what she learned was so apalling that she went on to make this expose. I was stunned by it. Some of the reviews call it funny. Though there were some hilarious moments, the aftertaste isn’t funny.

How did the drug companies invent a disease? They asked women questions designed to unearth if they ever had trouble becoming aroused or reaching orgasm (duh, who hasn’t?) and labeled those dysfunctional who said yes to any of the questions. Although women’s sexual responses are complex and based on relationship, health, energy, worries, other medications, and emotional issues as well as physical function, these issues were neither addressed nor ruled out.

The result: a new dysfunction and a drug to address it, both of which were then promoted by highly paid health “experts” on TV news and talk shows. I’m itching to name a visible, well-known “expert” who — although she denied any financial interest in the drug — was paid $75,000 a day for her media appearances on Oprah and other shows. You’ll see her identified in the film.

Below is one video clip — see the official trailer here (I couldn’t embed that one).

6/7/10 update: When I wrote this post a few days ago, Orgasm Inc. was available on Amazon, and today when I checked it, it has disappeared from the listings. This is odd indeed. I’ll keep checking for its return.  It is listed on Netflix, but the available date is unknown, as a reader commented. How frustrating — I really want you to be able to see it. I’ll update the info when this changes — keep checking back.

Cloud 9: German film takes risks portraying senior sex and love

Cloud 9 (Wolke Neun) is a 2008 German film about a woman in her sixties, in a routine but loving (and sexually dynamic) marriage of 30 years. Inge, a seamstress, falls first in lust and then in love with a 76-year-old man. This film, winner of several prestigious awards, is slow-paced, full of raw emotion, and — are you sitting down? — filled with one charged sex scene after another. 

Inge (brilliantly acted by Ursula Werner) has sex with her husband (Horst Rehberg), with herself, and several times with her lover (Horst Westphal). The film is graphic by US standards — you see all three characters’ naked bodies, both during lovemaking and just standing or sitting. The film seems to say, “These are the bodies we wear all day, so what’s the big deal? Why hide them?” The sex scenes are tender and erotic, and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed them.

I have to applaud this film, not only for its refreshing and realistic treatment of senior sex and love, but because they didn’t make Inge an aging sex bomb. Rather, she’s a plain, frumpy woman with a chunky body and pendulous breasts, who sings in a choir and never seems to comb her hair. She’s not beautiful by any means, but she is radiant when she’s sexually turned on — which happens throughout the film — or laughing.

I’m skirting around the plot details because I don’t want to spoil it. Please see it. I welcome your comments (but please don’t give away the ending.)
You won’t find this film in your local movie listings, but Netflix has it, and so does Amazon. Hurray.

A Single Man

A Single Man is a stunning, moving, unforgettable film. Most of the action is psychological and internal, the turmoil of the main character, George Falconer, a 52-year-old British college professor in Los Angeles, played brilliantly by Colin Firth. Jim, George’s lover of 16 years, has just died, and George’s grief must stay as closeted as his sexual orientation. It’s 1962.
The film opens with George coming upon the lifeless body of Jim in the snow beside the car wreck that killed him. George kisses Jim’s cold lips softly, and the camera lingers on Jim’s vacant eyes. We learn later that this scene is fantasy — not only did George never see the dead body of his lover, he wasn’t permitted to attend the funeral, which was “only for family.”
George and Jim had been a committed couple for 16 years. Despite the constant reminders that this was 1962 — the Cuban crisis, the fashions and hair styles, the cars — I couldn’t help comparing the mores of the times with today’s. Although George would not have to be closeted today at work or socially, he still would not have been permitted to marry Jim in most states — including mine, California (the passage of Prop. 8 is a fact I still find unbelievable).  Jim’s family still could have held his funeral without George.

A Single Man takes place over the course of one day, supplemented by flashbacks.George is planning his suicide as neatly as he has lived his life: He sets out the suit he wants to be buried in, writes letters to the few people in his life who matter, cleans out his office, buys ammunition for a gun, and experiments with different positions for doing the deed.

Life interferes with his plans — people, really, but I dont want to reveal more. I’ve read several reviews, and I have to warn you that although the reviewers avoid spoiling the ending, the online commenters have no such compunction. I advise you to see the movie before learning how it ends.

Although this is clearly Colin Firth’s movie, other actors deserve recognition: Julianne Moore who plays Charley, his best friend, who is still trying after all these years to get him in bed again (they tried it, before Jim); Matthew Goode, the appealing Jim in flashbacks; Nicholas Hoult, a beautiful young man, a student of George’s who yearns to connect with George.

A Single Man was directed and co-written by  Tom Ford and was based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, which I’m now eager to read.

If you’re looking for fast action and flashy scenes, A Single Man isn’t for you. It’s a film for people who are willing to watch, absorb, listen, and feel. I loved it.

View the trailer: