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Shortbus (2006)

Cast: Sook-Yin Lee, Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, more...
Director: John Cameron Mitchell, John Cameron Mitchell
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Velocity / Thinkfilm
Genre: Comedies, Drama, Independent, Gay & Lesbian, Features
Running Time: 102 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish, French
    see additional details...

John Cameron Mitchell, who created a cult sensation as writer and director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, blazes a brave new trail with this comedy-drama which combines the stories of a handful of emotionally unsatisfied New Yorkers with some of the most explicit sexual material to ever appear in a mainstream motion picture. Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) is a couples' therapist who has a major relationship problem of her own -- she's never had an orgasm, and her husband Rob (Raphael Barker) doesn't seem capable of giving her one. Sophia's clients include James and Jamie (Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy), a gay couple who have been together for five years and are beginning to grow tired of one another. As James and Jamie discuss the possibility of bringing another man into the bedroom, Sophia accidentally mentions her problem, and they tell her of an upcoming "Shortbus Party," a sexual free-for-all in which straight, gay, and lesbian couples are all welcome to either talk about sex or take a more active role in the main ballroom. As James and Jamie hook up with Ceth (Jay Brannan) for some mutually satisfying action at the bash, Sophia experiments with Sapphic diversions, and begins to truly find herself when she encounters Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a professional dominatrix. However, while Sophia begins to find what she needs with Severin, she discovers that while Severin is able to casually enter into a sexual relationship, she's never been able to emotionally commit herself to someone else. Shortbus was screened in competition at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Groundbreaking, just not a good movie... by siddigger February 19, 2008 - 8:52 AM PST
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful
The views and depictions of sex in this movie were very well done and it will most likely be remembered for just that. As well it should as breaking taboos is not an easy thing to undertake in any culture.

However, the plot of the movie is fairly trite and boring despite some excellent acting by the male leads. The answer to all of the problems in the movie always leads back to sex and the epiphany at the end of the movie suggests that as well as that sex is a connecting force between all humans. Not that this is a bad philosophy to have it's just naive and unrealistic. As such it drives the movies plot to sexual encounters that seem unnecessary and confusing. This causes the movie to seem implausible and almost comical causing the viewer to become detached from the characters and plot.

Overall it was a good effort but one that could have benefited from better directing and more thought into the characters and plot.

What was he thinking? by MissOmega June 29, 2007 - 4:45 PM PDT
2 out of 8 members found this review helpful
This movie is so incredibly amateur, it's painful.

Halle-fuckin-lujah! by ZenBones March 23, 2007 - 1:35 AM PDT
14 out of 17 members found this review helpful
Given the way that sex has been depicted in movies throughout the world, I've always felt that my perspective on sex was a minority perspective; my perspective being that if you're not laughing while having sex, you're probably not doing it right. In my world, sex is fun and is often funny to boot, what with all the squeals, grunts and body parts flailing all over the place. But somehow, all the humor and intimacy has been drained from movies. Even in French movies, where sex is theory, or British movies where sex is guilt, or German movies where sex is angst, or God help us, Japanese movies where sex seems to require a lot of pain and misogyny. Misogyny aside, I don't have anything against those perspectives on sex, but what about those of us who strive for something beyond the cosmetic surface of all that skin and attitude?

Thanks to this film, I've discovered that I'm not part of a minority that was as small as I believed it to be. Those who watch this thinking that John Cameron Mitchell just wanted to make an American sex film, will be surprised to find out that the film isn't really about sex at all. It's about intimacy and connecting. Sex is the backdrop, but just as New Yorkers experienced a strong unity over the tragedy of 9/11 and the enormous inconvenience of the blackout of 2003, what the people in this film are striving for is an even stronger unity of love and acceptance. In these times where one half the population wants to depict sex as something ominous or naughty and baaaad, and the other half are wishing they could burn anyone who is sexually promiscuous at the stake, it's no wonder that as a culture, we're unable to get past the adolescent stage. Our culture is sick, not just because of our attitudes about sex but because the guilt and rebelliousness that are the result of a staggering repression has made us unable to honestly feel good about ourselves. As this movie shows us, one can't incorporate love in sex unless one is able to love oneself first.

This movie is about breaking through those layers of sexual angst, and actually being able to connect deeply with a multitude of strangers in a celebratory way. I once worked on a porno film (script supervisor - not participant) in my early days of film school, and when the director - who had already shot a multitude of sex scenes from every position - asked me if I had any suggestions, I timidly said, "maybe you could have a scene where they just stop and look into each others eyes?" Yeah, right. Given the looks of bafflement and bemusement around the room, I felt like a fool after I said that, but John Cameron Mitchell has redeemed me. I will state again; this film isn't really about sex. When our heroine finally has an orgasm, we don't even know what is being done to her. We just see her eyes, radiating light and joy. Yeeee-hahhhhhhh!

The radical right will no doubt regard this film as degenerate and perverted, but they would be even more upset if they actually watched it. For this is a dangerous movie. Its bare-ass, graphic depiction of sex isn't done in a seedy, shadowy way where strangers look like misanthropic sex-addicts who need to travel to the dark side of town in order to feel baaaad. At the Shortbus, people talk to each other, laugh with each other, sing with each other (and in one hilarious scene, into each other) and stimulate each other in order to feel gooood. It's a happy place that depicts sex as what it is; a healthy, joyous and yes even spiritual communion; what every church social should be, but isn't. This is the ultimate threat to those who need to use seedy porn as a mirror of our society. It's the same reason that Christo-fascists have been far more angered by the legalization of gay marriage than they were over the legalization of gay sex. Anyone who has ever had a warm and loving sexual relationship with someone - even if it was just a one night stand - knows that it is in no way 'sinful'. Such joy never could be. It seems in times like these, the most rebellious thing we can do is to reach out to a stranger, smile, make each other feel good, and even love each other, even if it's just for an hour or two. I'm all for Shortbus sequels, Shortbus TV series and Shortbus parties all over the world!

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(Average 7.52)
145 Votes
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