Shortbus Movie Review

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John Cameron Mitchell 's thesis in Shortbus harkens back to E.M. Forster's classic exhortation: "Only connect." In Mitchell's world, however, a big part of connection is sexual connection, and a big part of sexual connection is the ability to give and enjoy earth-shattering orgasms. Mitchell's characters are in search of sexual connection, and it's a shocking, hardcore search that brings intensely graphic (and real) sex to mainstream cinema for the first time. To put it another way: Oh. My. God.But Shortbus is not porn. The sex serves the story, and as was the case with Mitchell's other brilliant film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the somewhat hard and threatening exterior hides a soft, sweet, and highly sentimental center. Shortbus is definitely about sex, but it's more about love and relationships and the joy one finds in truly connecting with someone else.We begin in the office of Sophia (Sook-Yin Lee), a young sex therapist. Her clients are depressed former hustler James (the very brave Paul Dawson) and his adoring boyfriend Jamie (PJ DeBoy). After five years, they fear they've lost the spark, and they're considering opening up their relationship, sexually speaking. Sophia is distracted by her own problems. We've already seen that she's capable of astonishingly acrobatic and energetic sex with her husband, but she admits she's never had an orgasm.James and Jamie invite her to visit Shortbus, a regular party/performance space/orgy lorded over by transvestite singing talent Justin Bond (playing a version of himself). With trepidation Sophia enters and encounters every kind of polymorphous perversion imaginable. It's an eyeful. (The jaded Bond describes it as "Just like the '60s, only with less hope.") The only friend she makes is Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a sad-eyed dominatrix with a heart of gold, who offers to help her find her orgasm. Over on another couch, James and Jamie have attracted the virginal Ceth (Paul Brannan), whom they take home. The hardcore gay three-way that ensues features a creative performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" involving bodily orifices that's so obscene it will probably get the film banned in 31 states. And yet the scene is as funny and sweet as it is dirty. That's Mitchell's magic.With a rich cast of supporting characters keeping things lively and interesting -- at one point an elderly gay former mayor of New York shows up at Shortbus and has a truly gripping conversation with Ceth -- the movie is never dull. Sophia's frustration grows, and the James/Jamie situation gets more and more tense, especially when James's depression gets dangerous and he simultaneously discovers he has a stalker. It's summer in the city, and frequent brownouts are threatening a blackout to come. It will take a lot of sexual energy and perhaps a rousing song from Bond to get the lights back on. These people may scare you, but you'll probably wish you could hang out with them.If Shortbus has any flaw it's that it seems to have trouble wrapping up. Mitchell has many lovely images up his sleeve, and he keeps dealing them out one by one until the movie has more than done its job. Of course, an excess of good ideas is a nice problem for a director to have. Despite his post-9/11 cynicism, Mitchell delivers a happy ending, so to speak. In fact, it's more than happy. It's positively orgasmic.

Cast & Crew

Producer : , Howard Gertler,

Starring : Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, PJ DeBoy, , Lindsay Beamish, Jay Brannan

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Comments

Shortbus Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 2006

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