'The Olivia Experiment': Film Review
A 27-year-old virgin decides to explore her intimacy issues in Sonja Schenk's comedy
Being a virgin is depicted as being roughly akin to having a mental disorder in Sonja Schenk’s comedy about an asexual 27-year-old gender studies graduate student. While its provocative themes certainly bear exploring in our sex-obsessed societal landscape, The Olivia Experiment is too superficial and cliche-ridden to make them resonate, and its attempts at humor fall thuddingly flat.
Olivia (Skye Noel) is attractive and intelligent but has never been drawn to either men or women and has resolutely remained a virgin. Rejected by an asexual support group and told by her kilt-wearing faculty advisor that she should “live a little,” she reluctantly agrees to her freewheeling friend Felisha’s (Jen Lilley) generous offer to loan out her hunky, blond, surfer-type boyfriend Julian (Brett Baumayr) for some no-strings-attached sex. The ensuing “Olivia Experiment” is the subject of a documentary film that the bespectacled guinea pig decides to make with the help of her lesbian camerawoman friend C.J. (Michelynne McGuire).
The experiment quickly goes awry, with the Olivia responding to Julian’s genial sexual invitations with the sort of panicked hysteria that would make Jerry Lewis blush. Desperately failing in her painful attempt at self-waxing (a cliche that should be heretofore banned from future comedies) and agreeing to little more than a foot massage from the perpetually shirtless would-be lover, she comes across as far more neurotic than endearing.
Alexandra Komisaruk’s screenplay attempts to invest the lightweight proceedings with thematic weightiness via such devices as on-camera interviews with various subjects describing their attitudes about sex, to little effect. More problematically, the characters, including Olivia’s solicitous gay roommate (Dan Gordon), her overbearing mother (Barbara Lee Bragg) and a nerdy mathematician (Kyle More) register as little more than broad stereotypes.
By the time that Julian instead hooks up with C.J., who has suddenly discovered that she’s actually bisexual, the film has degenerated into the sort of broad if demure sex farce that might have been seen in the 1980s.
Marked by weak performances and tonally confused direction, The Olivia Experiment has to be counted as a failure.
Production company: Mansfield Films
Cast: Skye Noel, Kyle Moore, Brett Baumayr, Jen Lilley, Michelynne McGuire, Dan Gordon, Barbara Lee Bragg
Director: Sonja Schenk
Screenwriter: Alexandra Komisaruk
Producers: Alexandra Komisaruk, Sonja Schenk
Director of photography: William MacCollum
Editors: Donald H. Hewitt, Jillian Twigger Moul
Composer: Ashley Irwin
No rating, 90 minutes