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Numerous New York City dwellers come to the exclusive club Shortbus to work out problems in their sexual relationships. Rob and Sophia are a happily married couple, except for the fact that she has never experienced sexual climax. This irony follows her to work because she is a couples counselor who frequently has to deal with the sexual issues other couples have. Two of her patients are Jamie and James, a gay couple who have been monogamous for five years and counting. James wants to bring other men in to the relationship, and his own history with depression may hint at an ulterior motive. Ceth (pronounced Seth) may be the perfect addition to their family, but Caleb, a voyeur from across the street, may have his own ideas about that. Sophia visits Severin, a dominatrix with secrets of her own to reveal. Written by
On-screen sexual thrills take a backseat to Shortbus' emotional core
Set in modern-day New York City, a heterogeneous group of straights, gays and transgenders find common ground at Shortbus, an underground salon where people are free to explore their most carnal sexual desires with random hookups and nightlong orgies sometimes even finding bits of wisdom along the way.
The superb cast of characters of John Cameron Mitchell's "Shortbus" powerfully draws the viewer in to each of the characters' lives and problems. Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist who's never had an orgasm, seeks out ways to overcome her "pre-orgasmic" dilemma, profoundly affecting her marriage. James (Paul Dawson), a former male escort battling depression, goes to ultimate extremes when he can't even seem to feel happiness with his loving and devoted partner of five years, Jamie (PJ DeBoy). Struggling artist Severin (Lindsay Beamish), who succumbed to work as a dominatrix, seeks to have a meaningful relationship with someone anyone.
Yes, the on-screen sex is real. And there's lots of it. But rather than displaying sexually explicit scenes for the sake of cheap titillation, "Shortbus" is provocative with an actual purpose. We're not in Hollywood anymore.
While sex is a main focal point in the film, it is not the sole one. "Shortbus" deals with all manners of human relations. Not stressing one form over another, it shows how sex, friendship and love continually intermingle. Because one's comfort level with their sexuality mirrors how one relates in all other relationships, showing the raw and carnal aspect of each character so explicitly works beautifully to accurately convey their motivations and struggles.
In a touching conversation, an old man identifying himself as the former mayor of New York says to the young and naive Ceth (Jay Brannan), "People come to New York to get laid ... People also come to New York to be forgiven." The latter can also be said for those who elect to see this film. Whether dealing with sexual oppression, struggling with sexual desires deemed socially deviant, seeking redemption for having already been there and done that, or feeling generally unaccepted for being who you are, the redemption value in this film is tenderly perceptible. "Shortbus" lets us know that gay, straight, bi, transgender, whatever we all just want to feel accepted.
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