The ensemble comedy goes for edgy, but comes short.
By Jorge Ignacio Castillo
THE PLOT: Years after escaping her conservative hometown, Cassie (Jewel Staite, Firefly) returns to attend her mother’s funeral. While her mom gained some notoriety chronicling the joys of living in Beaver Creek, Cassie also made a living as a writer, but in her case a sex column that has led to a publishing career.
Her return puts her face-to-face with her old nemesis, mean girl Heather (Lauren Lee Smith, The Listener), who resents Cassie portraying the municipality as a land of uptight, sexless zombies. Unexpected news give Heather the opportunity of proving Cassie wrong and serve her own agenda: An no-holds-barred bacchanal. Unfortunately, their circle of friends is ripe with sexual dysfunction and arrested development for a proper execution.
CRITIQUE: The concept behind How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town is far superior to the execution. Comedies can work two ways: Featuring one-dimensional characters and being actually funny (see Airplane!), or by creating complex types whose interactions lead to humorous and even enlightening situations (see Annie Hall). Orgy relies on simpleminded characters (the henpecked husband, the harpy wife, the over-sexed best friend) and mistakes wit with shock.
The film disguises itself as edgy, but stripped of all crassness, Orgy is rather dull. The sexual politics here are equally problematic. Attraction is barely in the picture: Most treat the orgy as going to the dentist. Reasonable emotions like jealousy, regret or curiosity are either paid lip service or not portrayed at all. As presented in the movie, homosexuality is something you can be peer-pressured into.
Perhaps the biggest sin of Orgy is misusing a cast that seems game for anything. Written and directed by Jeremy LaLonde (Sex After Kids), the film takes the most obvious road every time and fails to provide any insight on its source of inspiration.
* Lauren Lee Smith does wonders with the thinnest of materials. Doesn’t get to save the movie, but at least seems human.
* Ennis Esmer is a good sport.
* The film’s number of nonsensical plot points is off the charts. Characters have sex with people they despise, some go to extremes to hide secrets they later reveal to passing acquaintances, others overcome serious sexual dysfunction within days with no professional assistance.
* Cassie is maddeningly inconsistent. A secret is revealed midway through the film that basically invalidates her entire background and we are expected to suspend disbelief.
* Characters don’t need to be likeable to get the audience behind them, but at least they should be interesting. Everybody is miserable here and no good reason for us to care is provided.
RATING (CANADIAN CURVE): **
How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town opens today in Toronto, Halifax and in VOD.