Sex and Death 101

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A lame comic idea poorly executed dooms "Sex and Death 101" to failure. The leads, handsome Simon Baker and an alluring Winona Ryder, don't come together until the final sequence, which might cause the few people still in the theater to wish the movie could start at this point. The "Sex" in the title may entice the unwary, but what they will experience will come closer to the title's other noun.

Writer-director Daniel Waters once wrote the sharp, even seminal high school satire "Heathers," but that was then and this is now. Here he becomes entranced with two gimmicky though negligible plots. One is better suited to a porno, or at least a porno back in the day when such films had actual plots. The other belongs to a female "Death Wish."

Baker plays Roderick Blank, a fellow who on the eve of his wedding receives a mysterious e-mail that contains a list of all the women he has had -- or will have -- sex with in his entire life. In chronological order. The list does not stop with his fiancee, containing no less than 72 more sex partners. Thinking with an organ that is clearly not his brain, he cancels the nuptials in favor these 72 new flavors.

Meanwhile, a dark seductress dubbed "Death Nell" by the media puts a series of deserving males into deep comas following sexual encounters. And don't you just know that good old Nell -- real name Gillian De Raisx (Ryder) -- is No. 101, the last playmate on Blank's list.

His quickie trysts with a series of beauties, most looking more like models than actresses, are meant to bring home several points: Does knowing you will score remove the tantalizing pleasure of the chase? What if someone you really love is not on the list? As you near the end, do you worry about your own mortality? The Death Nell story line serves no purpose other than to underscore that last point.

There is no wit and few laughs in any of these encounters. Someone with a much greater imagination, if not a dirtier mind, was needed behind the camera. The actors are game, especially Baker, Ryder and, in an all too brief cameo as an "older woman" that might have gone somewhere, Frances Fisher. Wrap-around sequences involving three white-clad men in an all-white room with an Oracle-like computer that explains this strange and mysterious list should have been jettisoned entirely. If you have the courage to press ahead with a bad story idea, just do it. No one wants an explanation.

Production values are bargain basement, thanks no doubt to a shoestring budget.

SEX AND DEATH 101
Anchor Bay
An Anchor Bay Entertainment presentation in association with Avenue Pictures and Sandbar Pictures
International sales: Arclight Films
Credits:
Writer-director: Daniel Waters
Producers: Cary Brokaw, Elizabeth Fox Friedman, Greg Little
Executive producer: Aaron Craig Geller
Director of photography: Daryn Okada
Production designer: John Larena
Music: Rolfe Kent
Co-producer: Jerry P. Jacobs
Costume designer: Julia Caston
Editor: Trudy Ship
Cast:
Roderick: Simon Baker
Gillian/Nell: Winona Ryder
Miranda: Leslie Bibb
Trixie: Mindy Cohn
Fiona: Julie Bowen
Hope: Frances Fisher
Running time -- 118 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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