Sex Stories (2009) – By Cary Conley

Sex Stories is co-written and co-directed by Ovidie, a French porn star turned director who is famous for making similarly-themed films such as this.  Kind of a cross between a porn movie and The Big Chill, and reminiscent of Catherine Breillat’s films and semi-experimental films like Shortbus, Sex Stories concerns a group of friends who periodically break up to have a "girl’s night out" and a "guy’s night out".  Both conversations inevitably turn to the friends’ recent sexual encounters.  As each person in turn describes his or her encounter, the film cuts to real-time action of the actual encounter.  The viewer is treated to sexually explicit scenes of many varieties as the friends compare notes.

Without delving too much into what constitutes "pornography," for purposes of this review, pornography will be defined as scenes involving erections and penetration; using this definition, the film is clearly pornographic.  Even though this film could not be described as a standard porno movie (it does have a serious plot), I don’t think even an NC-17 would apply, rather an X would have to be used; however, the film is being released unrated as it stands.

We have a middle-aged divorcee whose 19-year-old daughter is dating a man many years her senior.  While this man struggles with the intellectual and sexual disconnection of dating a young, inexperienced lover, he and the divorcee  are attracted to each other and are having sex.  Even though she is divorced, this woman continues to have an on-again, off-again sexual relationship with her ex-husband as well.

We also have a couple who swing.   Some of their encounters are good and some not, but they insist to their friends that they are not "cheating" on each other even though they both have one night stands they have kept secret from their partner (in maybe the most erotic scene, the woman goes into a porno theater at the spur of the moment where she meets a man; getting turned on by the movie, they have sex in a theater seat without saying a word before the woman leaves without even saying "Goodbye").

One girl plays the standard nymphomaniac who thinks nothing of hooking up with just about anyone for any reason, including having sex in a car on the street as a thank-you gift for a casual acquaintance who gave her a lift.

There is also a recently-wed couple that is struggling with their sexual relationship.  He thinks he’s a great lover but is perplexed by his new wife’s coldness during sex.  She claims sex is uninteresting  but finally admits to her girlfriends that she has never had an orgasm.

As the film moves from the men’s conversation to the women’s conversation and back again, their sexual admissions and encounters are depicted for the viewer in graphic detail.  But just as in a Breillat film or in the film Shortbus, while the sex leaves nothing to the imagination, much of it isn’t titillating.  There is no porn score and the actors and actresses are not the well-oiled and airbrushed porn stars some viewers may be used to.  While there are some acrobatics involved, the sex isn’t intended to be the standard porno-style sex that amazes some viewers and causes others to cringe; rather it is portrayed as sometimes hot, sometimes bland, and often-times messy, bungling, and uninspired as these real people try to sort out their real problems.

But while there are some weighty issues the characters are trying to deal with, the directing is done with a light touch that allows the film some humor instead of becoming just a depressing examination of the characters’ various neuroses.  For example, one of the guys thinks he is a great lover, but the nympho confesses to her girlfriends that he likes to talk dirty nonstop which drove her to distraction as well as dissatisfaction.  This scene is played out as the two are having sex while he talks like a porn star and she looks confused, disappointed, and ultimately bored.  In another scene, the fairly conservative newlywed admits to her friends that she has never had an orgasm despite being 29 years old.  The women all react predictably, then break out the toys and send her to the bathroom to work on that orgasm.  As she finally experiences the ultimate ending to her sexual exploration, she practically falls into the bathtub when she climaxes.

Sticking with the general theme that relationships–especially sexual relationships–are typically messy and complicated, the film ends without resolving much.  The mother is still carrying on with her daughter’s boyfriend, the nympho doesn’t admit to her friend that she slept with her friend’s husband, and the swingers are still swinging as they look for ultimate fulfillment, if not with one another, with someone else as their partner looks on.  But with her first orgasm now on the books, the new wife embarks on a heated exploration of sex with her husband who has also found a new interest in his wife as she becomes more sexually adventurous.

The strong sexual content notwithstanding, I found the film entertaining.  It touched on many issues I think most couples deal with at some point and does so with some humor.  As long as you aren’t offended by the frankness of the subject matter or the sexual content, I would recommend the film.  I think it is a good character study on relationships.  The film streets on July 6, or you can go to www.breakingglasspictures.com to purchase the DVD.