A Hidden Life
It’s one of the year’s best and most distinctive movies, though sure to be divisive, even alienating for some viewers, in the manner of nearly…
What to make of a comedy called "Love & Air Sex"? I am pretty sure I know what love is. But air sex? Not really, unless it is another term for the Mile-High Club.
Turns out, this competitive pastime (yes, it is a real thing—check out airsexworld.com) is exactly what it sounds like. A variation on air guitar where, instead of perhaps mimicking AC/DC's bobble-headed axman Angus Young to the strains of Highway to Hell, fully-clothed participants simulate copulation and other acts in varying degrees of explicitness, vulgarity and innovation, to suggestive music. Sort of like Beyonce's racy rendition of Drunk in Love at the Grammys, but minus the diva attitude and Jay-Z.
As for the Austin, Texas-based film formerly known as "The Bounceback" when it played at South by Southwest last year, it is as jarringly schizophrenic as the title suggests. Framing the plot is a somewhat poignant story of longing and regret. But the central conceit is a salute to post-collegiate slacker-dom and the sort of raunchy, foul-mouthed shenanigans that were more amusing when originally done in films by Richard Linklater, the Farrelly brothers, Kevin Smith and the "American Pie" gang.
It begins with a rush of romance, as a likable couple on a first date flirt over a fancy pâté appetizer and red wine (the second-cheapest bottle on the menu, he mock-brags) before consummating their passion later that night. But it's just a teasing remembrance of hot times past, as it becomes apparent the pair have long since split.
We learn that Stan (Michael Stahl-David of "Cloverfield") is now reduced to making pizzas in Los Angeles after his film-making aspirations have apparently fizzled, and Cathy (Ashley Bell of "The Last Exorcism") is hunkered down in medical school in New York City. When a heartsick Stan spies a Facebook exchange that reveals Cathy is about to visit a friend back in their hometown of Austin, he impulsively decides to go there to rekindle their relationship.
Being cash-strapped, Stan bunks with his uncouth buddy Jeff (Zach Cregger, a smarmy cross between "American Pie"'s Seann William Scott and Kevin Smith regular Jason Lee) and his two doltish roommates. They live in a squalid bachelor pad, but there are house rules, such as, "The toilet doesn't work. So you have to pee-pee in the sink and poo-poo at the 7-Eleven."
Cathy, meanwhile, reunites with her tough-as-acrylic-nails friend Kara (Sara Paxton), who is proud to have earned her self-described title of "slut" and is fond of T-shirts emblazoned with a gun-toting Patty Hearst. Not helping matters is that Kara and Jeff have undergone a break-up recently, and the wounds are still oozing.
That is where air sex comes in. Jeff says he wants to win the championship held at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to claim the prize of a month of free alcohol. But judging from his qualifying performance of "Jurassic Park"–inspired erotic maneuvers that he bitterly dedicates to his ex-girlfriend, it is more about catharsis, and perhaps the chance to impress a potential pick-up with his onstage bedroom skills.
To delay the reunion of Stan and Cathy as long as possible, director/co-writer Bryan Poyser introduces two potential rivals for their affection while they are both out on the town with their pals. For Cathy, it is a charmingly polite former military man turned veterinarian (yes, there is a joke about him being a "vet vet") described as looking like the actor from "Midnight Cowboy"—luckily, not Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo but Jon Voight's strapping Joe Buck. For Stan, it is a sultry singing cellist with an alluring Fiona Apple vibe.
Both David-Stahl and Bell are appealing actors but unfortunately their easy-to-relate-to storyline is pretty much upstaged by the rowdy air-sex scenes. The suggestive pantomimes—sometimes known as hump-offs—might sound like they're a hoot to watch, but they end up being as exciting as watching someone read a book full of blank pages.
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