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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Shortbus

    I had heard quite a bit about Shortbus before I had the opportunity to see it. I was expecting something sexually explicit from the descriptions from various sources, but I would be lying if I said I was completely prepared for the extent of the graphicness of the film. If writer and director John Cameron Mitchell’s intention was to grab the audience’s attention with shock value, then he certainly achieved his goal.

    The level of sexual sensationalism in Shortbus is one of the obvious draws of the film. Unfortunately, the abundance of these provocative, and often pornographic, images take the focus away from what happens to be a moving and poignant story about a group of young New Yorkers searching for a balance between pure sexual desire and simple intimacy.

    Initially, the film’s unapologetic sexuality can be somewhat overwhelming. However, as the story unfolds, we become acquainted with a slew of fascinating, complicated, and most importantly, honest characters. They are utterly imperfect and frustratingly flawed, but we come to care about them because of their sincere humanity.

    The central couple of the film is James (Paul Dawson) and Jamie (PJ DeBoy), who have been together for five years and are considering opening up their relationship. To help them make this decision, they go to see Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist who has never had an orgasm. Sofia, in turn, befriends a dominatrix named Severin (Lindsay Beamish), who suffers from the inability to make significant connections with other people.

    ‘ All four of these individuals are brought together in the underground sex club Shortbus, a place where, as the name suggests, all of the ‘special’ people belong. The patrons seen passing through do nothing to contest this idea, and as Justin Bond, the club’s cross-dressing hostess, explains, ‘It’s just like the sixties, only with less hope.’

    At first glance, what Justin proclaims seems to be true. But upon taking a deeper look, it is clear that things are never quite as hopeless as they seem for our troubled protagonists. For all of their faults and failures, the characters are consistently well intentioned. As with most people, their selfishness somehow gets in the way of the good that they want to accomplish. The character’s shortcomings are what make them sympathetic individuals, and so their desires are understandable.

    Though it is clear that some of the actors are more experienced than others, every single character is played honestly, overshadowing what might otherwise seem forced or stagy. Without fail, it is Shortbus’s unfaltering honesty about the struggle between sex and intimacy in a relationship that makes its message so potent. Mitchell took a great risk by fearlessly presenting such carnal and impenitent sexuality, which resulted rewardingly in an offbeat and surprisingly poignant look at love and relationships.

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