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"Sex with Strangers"

Directed by Harry Gantz and Joe Gantz.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  3/1/02 


My roommate Laura and I took in a nighttime showing last night of the documentary "Sex with Strangers."  As you may have guessed, this movie has a good amount to do with sex.  And, it's rated NC-17, making this the first time Bellview has provided you with an adult entertainment review.

Most of the country doesn't have this film in theaters, but here in San Francisco we seem to get all manner of adult-related material.  The reason for that is most theaters don't show adult-only content, for fear that the movies will tank and they won't recoup costs for the film's run.  Or, many theater chains have "morals" and "standards" and therefore don't want to be showing near-porn in their multiplexes.

The creators of HBO's "Taxicab Confessions" directed this film, which follows around three couples that happen to swing.  Calvin and Sara are the "one loves it, one sure don't" couple, he being the one who loves to swing and she represents the girl that only wants to be with Calvin.  Shannon and Gerard are the "Every time I try and get out...they keep pulling me back IN!" couple.  Shannon knows that the lifestyle of swinging makes her uncomfortable, but she can't seem to get enough of it.  Finally, JR and Teri are the old pros--they have been together for a long time and just can't get enough of the random orgy lifestyle.

As many of you remember, I worked on a production last summer in Jamaica for two weeks that dealt with pretty much this same subject, so I wanted to see how this film handled the casual nature of this style of partner swapping...ESPECIALLY after getting to talk to so many folks about what they liked and disliked about the lifestyle.  I thought that "Sex with Strangers" is excellent in this area, as the filmmakers get the subjects to discuss their turn-ons and affection for toys and experimentation and the like.  I think that lots of folks in our audience thought it ridiculous that JR talked about sex like it was brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast, or talking on the phone--really just trivial stuff.  In one sequence, JR is involved in a six-person orgy and actually mutters that the whole thing is "boring" and walks out of the room in a huff.  But, if you were a guy used to having much bigger orgies all the time in the living room of your best friend's place, maybe you would be the same way!

But, the feeling of what it might be like to be a swinger is the only thing that makes the film interesting.  That, and any of the scenes involving JR, who is a showcase for the film in his frank approach to the lifestyle.  The other two couples are flat-out boring, the film runs on to 120 minutes when 90 would have been enough, and, to be perfectly honest...


True, I give credit to the filmmakers for not running out and finding the hottest swinging couples on the planet, but in that authenticity comes an uncomfortable bit of watching overweight people have group sex, and a turn-on this is NOT.  There is a five-minute scene where Shannon & Gerard are doing a group hot-tub thing with four other people, one of whom looks like the Marlboro Man at age 70.  This guy was getting laughs every time he was on-screen because people thought he looked so nasty.

Laura thought it was a Rental, but maybe because I had a little bit of experience talking to some of these folks in the past, I got a little more out of it.  But overall, this is not a great film.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09