Love & Air Sex: Film Review

Sincere rom-com benefits from lewd novelty.

Bryan Poyser sets an attempted romantic reunion against a karaoke-meets-porn contest.

Austin filmmaker Bryan Poyser offers his most accessible feature yet without ignoring his outre tendencies in Love & Air Sex, a sweet little rom-com that, in the background, offers pantomimes of sex fantasies so raunchy they'd put most porn-obsessed teen comedies to shame. A likeable cast of relative newcomers buoys the film, which never quite finds the sweet spot but should attract some attention in niche bookings with its "air sex" hook -- a gimmick that invites pairings of the pic with outrageous, media-ready live competitions.

Air sex, for the uninitiated, is the X-rated cousin of air guitar. If the latter always seemed masturbatory to those not under the spell of Eddie Van Halen and his kin, the former is a more direct analog to self-gratification: A single performer stands before a drunken crowd, miming one side of a heroic coupling and scoring points every time he can convincingly evoke something more exotic than the usual positions.

Air sex is the current obsession of Jeff (Zack Cregger), an Austinite whose pal Stan (Michael Stahl-David) has come home from Los Angeles in hopes of reuniting with Cathy (Ashley Bell). The two used to be a perfect couple, palling around town with Jeff and his girlfriend Kara (Sara Paxton), but both relationships dissolved after Cathy moved to New York for med school. Now, learning that Cathy has come home for a short stay at Sara's, Stan hopes to "accidentally" bump into her during his own hastily planned visit. Kara is bent on preventing their reunion, in part so she can continue a spiteful spree of rebound sex and binge drinking.

Stahl-David and Bell give likeable performances as lonelyhearts who long for each other but have probably missed their moment. These nice-guy personalities are easily upstaged by Cregger and Paxton, who are highly watchable even when spouting terrible advice; similarly, new love interests (Addison Timlin's cello-playing Haley and Justin Arnold's Tim, an aw-shucks Texas gentleman) both have enough appeal to make the story's promised reunion less than certain.

If the screenplay offers more chuckles than real laughs, Cregger's enthusiastic air-sex performances take up some slack. Though the onstage antics are sometimes as mean-spirited as they are vulgar, Jeff's "Tyrannosaurus Sex" routine is a bizarro highlight.

Production Companies: Boomdozer, Barking Magpie
Cast: Ashley Bell, Zach Cregger, Sara Paxton, Michael Stahl-David, Addison Timlin, Justin Arnold, Marshall Allman
Director: Bryan Poyser
Screenwriter: Steven Walters, David DeGrow Shotwell, Bryan Poyser
Producers: Megan Gilbride, Trace Sheehan
Executive producers: Ross M. Dinerstein, Kevin Iwashina
Director of photography: PJ Raval
Production designer: Michael Bricker
Costume designer: Caroline Karlen
Editors: Don Swaynos, Bryan Poyser
No rating, 90 minutes