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Little Death [SXSW 2015], The
Magnolia Home Entertainment // Unrated // June 26, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The raunchy sex comedy is somewhat of a common film in America. Filmmakers like Judd Apatow have been producing these movies for years, and they have proven to be quite successful at the box office. Australian Josh Lawson's career is primarily composed of acting, but he is taking on the role of writer/director for the upcoming comedy titled The Little Death. After premiering at the Sydney Film Festival and having been picked up by Magnolia Pictures for distribution in the United States, this is a comedy with the potential to generate a fair amount of buzz. It explores another side of the sex comedy that is rarely discussed, providing Lawson's film with a unique voice that can be heard above the clutter.
Following five separate stories, The Little Death is an anthology of several couples having difficulty with communication in the bedroom. Most of these individual struggle with understanding and discussing their sexual fantasies, which they're too embarrassed to speak of. These individuals are forced to confront fetishes that will change their relationships and lives forever.
Writer/director Josh Lawson has an excellent sense of humor that translates incredibly well onto the silver screen. Each story confronts different fantasies, allowing for variety. First, the audience is introduced to Paul (Josh Lawson) and Maeve (Bojana Novakovic). She has a rape fantasy, while Paul has a foot fetish. Meanwhile, Evie (Kate Mulvany) and Dan (Damon Herriman) are encouraged to start roleplaying, making him convinced that he's destined to become a great actor. Rowena (Kate Box) hasn't had an orgasm in years from her husband (Patrick Brammall), and finds that she gets turned on by seeing him cry. Phil (Alan Dukes) finds himself sexually attracted to his wife (Lisa McCune) when she's asleep. The final segment follows Monica (Erin James), as she translates an adult sex line for an attractive deaf man named Sam (T.J. Power). All of these characters are inevitably connected by a loose plot that aims to establish a cohesive story around the themes of sex and acceptance.
Not only are some of the stories better than others, but there are simply too many of them. Since there are five different segments to work through over the short 95-minute running time, we never get nearly enough time with each couple. While the constant movement from one story to the next keeps the pacing fresh and quick, there isn't much of an emotional payoff. The characters are likable in their personalities, but audiences aren't given the opportunity to connect with them on a more personal level. The closest that we get to feeling something genuine is in the stories of Paul and Maeve and Monica and Sam. The former is funny and engaging, while the latter has a sentimental note to the humor that feels real. On the other side of things, Phil and Maureen's segment is the most uninteresting of the bunch, as it's only utilized as a plot device that feels a bit weak and uninspired.
The Little Death is a film about love, acceptance, and society's idea of what should be considered "normal." Every one of these characters fear judgment from their spouse or admirer, and are ultimately forced to confront their problems. However, this is what places them on paths that will inevitably collide with other segments. However, this plot element in anthologies is overused, limiting the film from the originality that it could have pursued. Lawson is clearly a talented writer, as he manages to make the characters as complex as a real relationship, even despite the extremely limited amount of time spent in each segment. There are a lot of laughs that come about naturally, as they continue to uncomfortably attempt to explain themselves to their significant others. The pacing is tremendously quick and smooth. Your mind won't wander for a single minute, making this one of the smoothest sex comedies out there.
While the screenplay certainly sets the stage, it's the job of the actors to truly bring the material to life. In the case of The Little Death, the entire cast does a good job in making this film so hilarious, yet realistic. They all have excellent comedic timing, and make this an experience worth having. The chemistry between Josh Lawson and Bojana Novakovic as Paul and Maeve is extremely exact. Even without having to vocally say a word, Erin James and T.J. Power deliver superb chemistry over a Skype call that lasts for the entirety of the segment. The more sentimental notes are also delivered rather well, as the cast make the transitions feel ever so smooth.
By the title The Little Death, you may assume that this is a French film, but it's actually an Australian feature. It explores new and old love through the lens of a sex comedy that delivers an abundance of laughs and a few effective sentimental moments. Unfortunately, the high number of segments being explored is counterintuitive to the film's exploration of love, acceptance, and societal norms. Some of the stories are stronger than others, making it more efficient to focus on a couple strong segments, rather than five that vary in quality. The Little Death is funny, sexy, and occasionally sentimental. Recommended.
The Little Death played at SXSW Film Festival 2015 on March 13th, March 15th, and March 18th.