Sex and Breakfast

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This review was written for the theatrical release of "Sex and Breakfast." 

Movies about sexual experimentation have sometimes been played satirically, like "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," Paul Mazursky's landmark comedy from 1969. Others have traded in banal blather, like the well-meaning but leaden "Bliss" from 1997, which featured Terence Stamp as a sex therapist. Now a low-budget indie, "Sex and Breakfast," written and directed by Miles Brandman, takes the sober approach to the subject and ends up seeming turgid and pointless.

American filmmakers often have a problem confronting sexual topics with relaxed candor, and American audiences have never responded with much enthusiasm to a frank exploration of sexuality onscreen. They might buy teen comedies about sexual frustration but rarely embrace adult dramas about sexual fulfillment. That doesn't bode well for "Breakfast's" boxoffice prospects. The few viewers who sneak into the theater in search of titillation will be disappointed because the film doesn't show much skin. It's mainly an oh-so-earnest study of young people aching to expand their horizons.

Two couples -- James (Macaulay Culkin) and Heather (Alexis Dziena) and Ellis (Kuno Becker) and Renee (Eliza Dushku) -- seek the services of sex therapist Dr. Wellbridge (Joanna Miles), who promotes the therapeutic value of wife-swapping and orgies. Heather is having a problem reaching orgasm, though we can't help but wonder if group sex is the best solution. As for Ellis and Renee, it's not quite clear what their problem is, except a mild sense of boredom and Renee's confession of fleeting lesbian fantasies. Their partner-swapping strengthens one relationship and destroys the other.

The movie's main virtue is its highly photogenic cast. Dushku and Dziena are luscious camera subjects, and Becker also will steam up a few spectacles. All four actors, including Culkin, do well within the limits of very one-dimensional roles. Jaime Ray Newman has a nifty cameo as a waitress who flirts with Renee. But it's hard to have a lot of sympathy for such attractive, well-heeled yuppies. (One mystery is why young people in Los Angeles, of all places, spend so much time riding around in cabs or limos rather than with their own wheels.)

The film takes a long time getting to the "money" scene of the group sex. This sequence starts off effectively, in complete silence, without any background music. But it never hits any erotic sparks, and the aftermath is distinctly anticlimactic. "Breakfast" is handsomely shot; the settings are minimalist but well chosen. An old, rather questionable maxim says that sex sells. Not in this wan rendition.

SEX AND BREAKFAST
First Look International
Brandman Prods., CinemaLab

Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Miles Brandman
Producers: Michael Brandman, Chip Diggins, Andrew Adelson
Executive producers: Steven Molasky, Steven Brandman
Director of photography: Mark Schwartzbard
Production designer: David Chapman
Music supervisor: Danny Exum
Co-producer: Joanna Miles
Costume designer: Elaine Montalvo
Editor: Dana Shockley

Cast:
James: Macaulay Culkin
Ellis: Kuno Becker
Renee: Eliza Dushku
Heather: Alexis Dziena
Dr. Wellbridge: Joanna Miles
Charlie: Eric Lively
Betty: Jaime Ray Newman

MPAA rating R, running time 81 minutes.

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