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1 item from 2004

Speaking of Sex

8 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The producers are not quite sure what to call this movie -- "Speaking of Sex" in Europe, "Mr. Happy" in North America. The title dilemma is emblematic of this sex comedy because it gyrates among numerous satirical targets: sex therapists, lawyers, the insurance industry, big medicine. It's topped by a deliriously loopy supporting performance from Bill Murray as a rabid insurance-defense lawyer. What Murray did for "Rushmore", he's likely to do for John McNaughton's comic sex-capade, which had its world premiere at the 37th annual Chicago International Film Festival.

With Murray's deadpan foolery and enough cunning lingual jokery to fuel 10 seasons of "Sex and the City", the film would seem to have a happy time in college towns and big cities. And, in the jargon of the movie, it could stroke steamy dates as a video rental. Look for Murray to garner critical honors come high awards season, which should further seduce audiences.

Dan and Melinda (Jay Mohr and Melora Walters), a Boise, Idaho, couple, are having sack trouble, which causes Melinda to seek a sex therapist, whom she finds on a bus-stop bench advertisement. Not surprisingly, the sex guru, Dr. Emily Paige Lara Flynn Boyle), is about as helpful as a 976 number. But she at least pawns Melinda off on a depression wiz.

A slightly funny thing happens on the way to the depression guy: Melinda has elevator sex, and it turns out it's with the shrink she was going to see, Dr. Klink (James Spader). However, Klink has a raging case of male menopause complete with a little red Corvette. When word of his professional dalliance gets back to Emily, she goes nutso, filing a grievance with a watchdog medical organization that is out to cut off the, er, license of any therapist making it with a patient.

While "Sex" flounces along in this jagged, old-style "Love, American Style" plot line crammed with verbal and slapstick boobery, it is stroked with zany asides. Admittedly hyperactive and skewering everything in its path, "Sex" is packed with enough brainy satirical salvos to overcome the overly excited narrative, a credit to screenwriter Gary Tieche's fertile humor.

Buffed, coifed and big-hatted, Murray oozes manipulation and insincerity as trial lawyer Ezri Stovall. With a slick blue tie and faux cowboy hat, Murray doles out lethal high-mountain justice to those who dare to take on the Idaho medical insurance establishment. Murray's droll delivery, dismissive glances and utterly high-handed demeanor are a hoot throughout, easily the high mark of the comedy.

Under McNaughton's direction, the performances are ripe with inspired nuttiness, including most prominently Catherine O'Hara as a lusty corporate lawyer and Spader as the frazzled Freudian.

When jokes flounder and Murray is not around, the comedy is juiced by production designer Joseph T. Garrity's loony concoctions, including Murray's dizzy High Plains lawyer office complete with stuffed bear and pretentious Remington rip-offs. Similarly, Kimberly A. Tillman's wiggy costumes are a droll indictment of the Potato State's unique sartorial splendor.


Studio Canal presents

an Omnibus and Les Film Alain Sarde production

A presentation of Les Films Alain Sarde

Producers: Rob Scheidlinger, Alain Sarde, Pierre Edelman

Director: John McNaughton

Screenwriter: Gary Tieche

Co-producers: David Fanning, Steven A. Jones

Director of photography: Ralf Bode

Production designer: Joseph T. Garrity

Costume designer: Kimberly A. Tillman

Editor: Elena Maganini

Art director: Cathy Phillips



Dr. Roger Klink: James Spader

Dr. Emily Paige: Lara Flynn Boyle

Dan: Jay Mohr

Melinda: Melora Walters

Ezri Stovall: Bill Murray

Connie Barker: Catherine O'Hara

Larry: Paul Schulze

Jennifer Klink: Megan Mullally

Felix: Hart Bochner

Running time -- 96 minutes

No MPAA rating


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