Clearly, Judge Clark Douglas' babysitting skills leave something to be desired.
Thatcher's Britain with her knickers down.
"We haven't got eggs inside us. We're not ducks, y'know!"
Facts of the Case
Rita (Siobhan Finneran, Downton Abbey) and Sue (Michelle Holmes, The Chase) are teenage babysitters who have recently been working for the amiable Bob (George Costigan, Hereafter) and his wife Michelle (Lesley Sharp, The Full Monty). One night, Bob drives Rita and Sue home and makes a suggestion: what if all three of them just had sex? Surprisingly, Rita and Sue casually accept this idea and proceed to lose their virginity to Bob. So begins an unusual three-way affair which may or may not end badly for all involved.
Alan Clarke's Rita, Sue and Bob Too! is one of the most unusual sex comedies I've seen, as it's neither sexy nor funny. That's precisely the goal, mind you. Clarke presents a fairly sordid situation in a fairly sordid light. The plot might have easily served as the center of a grim, unflinching slice-of-life drama (something like Fish Tank, perhaps), but Clarke begins with a tone of cheeky enthusiasm and sticks with it even during the film's exceptionally ugly moments. The film sports a detached matter-of-factness which proves both unnerving and compelling; there's no judgment or life lessons to be found. It takes a middle-aged man having an affair with two teenage girls and simply observes them, without pity or envy or anger or spite or sadness or affection. There, but for the grace of God, go they.
I'm not sure the film works for me, but that's partially because I'm not sure of what it's attempting to accomplish. I'm told it's a satire, which feels vaguely correct, but a satire of what, exactly? Of life in Thatcher-era Britain? Of humanity's attempts to escape the doldrums of ordinary existence? Of how commonplace and dull casual sex has become? Of the sort of movies which treat characters like Rita and Sue as victims instead of clever, willing participants? I don't know. I do know that the film feels dishonest, and I'm at a loss to explain or defend that dishonesty. Bob is by no means a suave, charming man, but he doesn't have to make even the slightest effort to convince the girls to surrender their virginity (which it seemingly pain-free, by the way). He has almost nothing resembling sexual technique and he doesn't tend to last very long in bed (or wherever he is), but the girls have no trouble reaching orgasm within the short amount of time they're given to work with.
Eventually Bob's wife confronts him about the infidelity. She's understandably upset, but Bob defends his behavior and claims that he wouldn't feel a need to have affairs if his wife would have sex with him more than once a week. She claims that she doesn't particularly like sex. Oddly enough, Bob never seems particularly enthusiastic about it, either—orgasms aside, the act itself looks like a weary chore for all involved. Later, there are plot complications and new relationships which threaten to allow the characters to grow or change, but these are false alarms. Nobody in this tale seems capable of or interested in learning anything. Rita, Sue and Bob are as vapid as the cheesy title song which plays over the opening and closing credits. The film is never boring, and all of the central performances are exceptional. If a moral is lurking within, I'm afraid it's lost on me. Maybe there is no moral. Maybe, to quote Homer Simpson, "it's just a bunch of stuff that happened."
Rita, Sue and Bob Too! (Blu-ray) has received a middling 1080p/1.66:1 transfer from the folks at Twilight Time. The image looks natural and unaltered (as all TT releases do), but it also looks flat and underwhelming (as some TT releases do). The picture is soft and weathered, colors look a bit faded and detail isn't great—there are moments when it almost looks standard-def. Still, this is certainly a low-budget film, so it's occasionally difficult to tell where the problems end with the transfer and begin with the source material. The DTS HD 1.0 Master Audio track is merely adequate, as well—dialogue sounds clean and clear for the most part, but the soundtrack selections (including the amusingly cheerful, "We're Having a Gang Bang") sound a bit muddy at times. Supplements include an audio commentary with film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, an isolated score and effects track and a booklet with liner notes by Kirgo.
Rita, Sue and Bob Too! is an enthusiastically phony examination of unfulfilled people, but it's hard to say what Clarke's odd frisky film is ultimately attempting to achieve. Interesting, but curiously unsatisfying.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
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