All’s fair in love and marriage counseling. When a troubled couple attempts to solve their marital problems by consulting a sex therapist and a depression expert, they end up in a courtroom battle of sexual malpractice and a hilarious whirlwind of sexual encounters. A star-packed cast turns this unconventional look at relationships into a hilarious sex romp of improbable hook ups and outcomes.
Speaking of Sex 6.75
eyelights: Bill Murray. Catherine O’Hara. the plot. the script.
eyesores: the faux-farce vibe. the direction. the hammy performances.
‘Speaking of Sex’ is a film about a couple (Jay Mohr, Melora Walters), two therapists (Lara Flynn Boyle, James Spader), and two litigators (Bill Murray, Catherine O’Hara). It revolves around an affair that Dr. Klink (Spader) has with Melinda (Walters), and the legal repercussions that ensue.
It’s a convoluted affair: Dr. Paige (Boyle) has a crush on Dr. Klink and is upset when she discovers that he slept with Melinda – whom she had referred after seeing the couple and realizing that they needed individual counseling. She was convinced that he could treat her. Boy, did he ever!
The thing is that Klink had refused to see Melinda as a client, so there wasn’t a conflict of interest when he slept with her. But Paige, in a quest for revenge, convinces the woman to sue him anyway, arguing that he took advantage of her delicate frame of mind, while she was vulnerable.
Which she was, because she had been sexually frustrated for two years: Dan (Mohr) had not been able to get an erection for that whole time. With her, anyway – because there was that waitress once… (which only made matters worse!). Anyway, they’re both at their wits’ end.
And that’s when the lawyers come in, complicating things even further!
Bill Murray really shines as the no-BS lawyer who defends Dr. Klink. His mastery of legalese in concert with his typically cynical delivery, was a real joy to watch. And Catherine O’Hara, as his opposite number, did a really good job of being tough as a nails, of playing it straight, while playing up the humour.
Meanwhile, Spader and Flynn Boyle overplay the humour. Boyle is passable, doing the material justice without giving it any special touches. Spader, unfortunately, plays his character far too nervously, like John Ritter’s Jack Tripper on speed, and without the slapstick. It doesn’t work.
Mohr and Walters were a mixed bag. Mohr does as good as possible with a character who is mostly secondary, limited to reacting to what’s happening. However, Walters was particularly weak, whining her way through some of the passages and never seeming real; she came off as a bargain basement Leslie Mann.
The problem may be poor direction, though; it’s conceivable that the actors were given improper directives, based on the choices made throughout the piece. Case-in-point, the weird fast-forward scenes, used to convey manic hilarity, or the flashback as a storytelling device.
‘Speaking of Sex’ appears to want to be a farce, but it just doesn’t work on that level. The joy of the picture is in the dialogues and quirky situations, but they’re not played subtly enough to take off, and the goofy parts fail so miserably that the farce side doesn’t come through.
It’s a shame, too, because, on paper it’s a terrific idea, and the dialogues are quite excellent. I would even go so far as saying that, with a few tweaks (including some choice cast and crew changes), it would be an excellent film. I would actually love to see a remake of it.
It’s not a complete loss: if one can get beyond the inconsistent tone and some of the performances, there are terrific moments throughout (including some of the depositions and legal wrangling), amusing characters (such as Dan’s brother), and some great zingers.
The film doesn’t speak of sex per se and, in that respect, “Speaking of Sex’ is a misleading title. It’s a captivating one, but it’s a misrepresentation of the film’s core, which is the criss-crossing of various conflicting motivations, and how they eventually collide.
It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t deliver on its promise or its intention fully, however; few viewers will be forgiving or patient enough to give it a chance. But it deserves it: ‘Speaking of Sex’ is imperfect but it’s perfectly enjoyable in its own way. It could even become a guilty pleasure.
Date of viewing: July 26, 2013