Lucky Bastard: Film Review
Friday, Feb. 13 (CAVU Pictures)
Don McManus, Jay Paulson, Betsy Rue, Chris Wylde, Catherine Annette, Lee Kholafai, Lanny Joon
A fan wins the chance to have sex with a porn star in Robert Nathan's debut.
"Revenge porn" acquires a new meaning in Lucky Bastard, Robert Nathan's faux-found footage pic about an ordinary schmo who wins a contest he'd have been better off not entering. Less exploitative and a bit smarter than its seedy adult-film setting would suggest, the shoestring-budgeted film is nevertheless a niche outing that will rely on a stunty premise to attract voyeurs to its debut this Valentine's Day.
Dave (Jay Paulson) is the ostensibly lucky guy, a nervous young man chosen by matter-of-fact pornographer Mike (Don McManus) to star in a new production with porn star Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue). Saint, though generally happy with her job, has to be wheedled into agreeing to have sex with a nonpro -- "no anal and no amateurs" is her code. She rightly expects awkwardness or worse.
Nathan and co-screenwriter Lukas Kendall spend some time building that awkwardness once the filmmakers have picked up their new Romeo at the train station. We're given to understand that this gimmick is a regular feature on their web site, but one they're a little ashamed of: Contest winners are routinely mocked for their performance issues and pre-shoot jitters, their ineptitude presented to viewers who'd be just as bad if given a chance. Paulson's Dave is much like the earlier targets -- making inappropriately familiar small talk at lunch, exuding stalker vibes -- but he's intelligent enough to worry about what the cameras are catching and how it'll be presented. Later, when his bedroom scene falls apart, his need to destroy all the evidence triggers a killing spree targeting all those who've exploited him. (That bedroom scene and others feature plenty of flesh and thrusting without ever being either arousing or fully explicit.)
While Paulson is convincing in character, he doesn't plumb the kind of psychosexual depths that would make this violent rampage compelling. The picture works better in more mundane scenes, where Dave's eagerness and anxiety is balanced by the workaday nonchalance of people who work with copulating bodies for a living. McManus in particular hits the right notes as a man with few illusions about the glamour of the world in which he's a mini-mogul. Production values are wonky and unappealing in a way that fits the aesthetic world these characters inhabit.
Production Company: Vineyard Haven, LLC
Cast: Don McManus, Jay Paulson, Betsy Rue, Chris Wylde, Catherine Annette, Lee Kholafai, Lanny Joon
Director: Robert Nathan
Screenwriters: Lukas Kendall, Robert Nathan
Produces: Jim Wynorski
Executive producers: Lukas Kendall, Robert Nathan, Ashley Saint
Director of photography: Clay Westervelt
Production designer: Eugene Bowen
Editor: Tony Randel
NC-17, 93 minutes
Sundance: On the Scene