Anchor Bay // 2008 // 117 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 1st, 2008
One man. One list. 101 women. Some fantasies are too true to be good.
What if you were a shallow, superficial man governed almost totally by his libido and you were given a list detailing all the women you were going to engage in sexual intimacy with? That's the question this surreal fantasy-comedy seeks to answer.
As he admits in the opening narration, Roderick Blank (Simon Baker, The Devil Wears Prada) has it all -- a successful business, devoted friends, great hair and a beautiful soon-to-be wife. But when he opens a mysterious e-mail one day, his life as he knows it is turned upside down. On that list are the names of all the women's he's had sex with, plus all the women he will have sex with.
What to do with this information? Ignore it? Destroy it? Or make it your mission to scratch off all the names on that list and systematically bang 101 women until your genitals shrivel from overuse? Roderick chooses the third one and sets about a wild sex-capade, indulging his ever desire until the emotional baggage catches up on him and he finds himself on a collision course with Death Nell (Winona Ryder), a woman who is seducing men and putting them into comas.
From writer/director Daniel Waters, the writer of Heathers, comes a quirky examination of relationships and sex that happened to make me laugh out loud numerous time and will, some day, be regarded as a cult classic. From start to finish, Sex and Love 101 is different than anything I've seen before. Sure, the themes of love and commitment and the emotional toll of casual sex have all been examined before, but I promise you, you haven't ever seen this kind of approach.
It all starts with Waters's script, a whacked-out excursion into what you would think would be every man's fantasy, but degenerates into a nightmare. Waters handles this transition deftly -- or as deftly as you can when you're dealing with such a fantastical conceit of a magic sex list right out of the gate -- taking Roderick through the stages of denial ("This list isn't real") to acceptance ("Okay, maybe it's real") to full-scale horniness ("Holy Crap there's a centerfold on this list") to unease ("Maybe this wanton, nameless sex isn't really what I want") to near-immolation ("I'm a @#$%bag") to...well, that would be spoiling the ending, and it's an interesting culmination at that and, as Waters notes in his commentary, subversive. But not cynical, surprisingly.
Then there's Simon Baker, who takes the words on the page and injects a deft comic touch, the right amount of sentimentality and several metric tons of charm, and ends up delivering a dynamite performance that is both hilarious and -- when the film calls for it -- sad. Roderick Blank is the main character, but it's not quite clear he's worth rooting for. The guy indulges in his base desires at the expense of everyone's feelings and though he does eventually reach that epiphany, the collateral emotional damage he's left in his wake is so overwhelming that you might ask yourself -- does this guy deserve to get keel-hauled? It's a fair question and Waters and Baker refrain from making Roderick a clear-cut good or bad guy. But...at the end of the day, Baker's charisma will win you over. Ryder is fine in her supporting role, weird and sexy, and Mindy Cohn and Patton Oswalt deliver some of the funniest lines.
And huge brownie points for a Gymkata reference!
Anchor Bay's DVD is a good one, sporting an attractive 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Extras: Waters has a great commentary track and the "101 Perversions" documentary is robust.
The film is not without its...awkward moments. A few times Waters just goes too far, landing some cheap gags usually reserved for the "sex with a pie" movies he lambastes in his commentary. And the bus scene is just wrong (there's a line immediately after it that is so egregious I can't believe it made the final cut).
Hilarious, poignant, unique, over-the-top -- all apply to Sex and Death 101.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R