A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Heavy Petting" takes a subject with undeniable promise - necking in the 1950s - and pounds it into the ground with a relentless editing rhythm. The movie is a combination of four basic elements: old Hollywood teen movies, old sex education films, old rock 'n' roll records and new footage of middle-aged survivors remembering what it was like to neck in the 1950s. Once we've been rotated through this series once or twice, we get the idea. But the movie plugs away until we thank God we live in a time when the only safe thing to pet is your dog.We learn: a) That Hollywood teenagers were incredibly naive and lived in a time so innocent that the most interesting thing about them was their automobile; b) that venereal disease is to be dreaded; c) that old rock 'n' roll holds up pretty well, and d) that a lot of people in the 1950s did not have sex until after high school, were scared of the opposite sex, and masturbated a lot.
Of course, the "witnesses" in this movie are not exactly a cross section. We get an assortment of people in their 30s and 40s who remember their adolescent sex lives in rueful detail. And at least twice, we hear about that legendary girl in the senior class who went all the way. This girl is a recurring feature of almost all reminiscences about sex in the 1950s ("I think everybody in our senior class was a virgin on graduation day, except for this one girl . . .").
Just once, in one of these sex nostalgia movies, I wish they'd forget about the cases of arrested development and track down one of those girls and interview her. What was it like to be the only person in the senior class who went all the way? Some of the film's witnesses are ordinary folk, later identified as the owners of auto supply stories and suchlike. A lot of the others are performance artists - David Byrne, Ann Magnuson, Laurie Anderson - leading to the possibilities that a) the director, Obie Benz, hangs out with performance artists, or b) that it is assumed the fans of these performers had a hard time of it in their teenage years.
Most of the witnesses, on the basis of the available evidence, have not improved their sex lives much since those early days of sweat and fear.