By Andrea Meyer/IFC News
There’s been a lot of talk about the graphic sex at Sundance. Filmmaking dynamo Michael Winterbottom tried his hand at art-house porn, getting his actors to really do the deed in his explicit relationship saga “9 Songs.” Doc darlings Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato got inside the most notorious and profitable X-rated flick of all time with “Inside Deep Throat.” Festival audiences fled theaters as comedian after comedian told the dirtiest joke ever in “The Aristocrats.” A hot older womanoh my God, she’s 32does little besides bang her 19-year-old boytoy in the raunchy Korean romance “Green Chair.”
What I noticed about Sundance 2005, thoughbesides the criminal non-existence of swag for non-celebrities, not even a Sony baseball cap or Palm Pictures tote in sightwas the sex, sex, sex that was gushing (or occasionally just hovering around the edge of the frame) in this year’s teenager flicks. These movies were all about tasting it, craving it, using it to get what you want and, especially, losing it.
In Rebecca Miller’s lyrical dad-and-daughter love story “The Ballad of Jack and Rose,” the titular teenage girl (Camilla Belle) is so pissed at her dad (Daniel Day-Lewis) for inviting his girlfriend and her sons to move in, she convinces one of her reluctant stepbrothers to deflower herand hangs her bloody sheets in the yard as evidence. Troublemaking slut Maggie Gyllenhaal snags a young lad’s virginity in “Happy Endings,” though said lad is not so supportive: The only benefit he sees in the unpleasant turn of events is his dad might not realize he’s gay.
In Noah Baumbach’s award-winning (best screenplay and best director) “The Squid and the Whale,” two Brooklyn boys have different ways of coping with their parents’ divorce: 12-year-old Frank (Owen Kline) starts drinking booze and wiping his ejaculate on books in the school library. His 16-year-old brother (Jesse Eisenberg), on the other hand, tries to play tough and detached with his first girlfriend, a difficult task while suffering the humiliation of coming in six seconds and being told he uses too much tongue when they kiss.
If Baumbach’s scenarios are disturbingly familiar, Miranda July, winner of a special jury prize for originality, uncovers the offbeat in everyday lives in “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” in which sons deal with their parents’ divorce. 14-year-old Peter is a willing judge in the neighborhood girls’ blowjob-giving contest, and 7-year-old Robby gets involved in the funniest cybersex ever committed to celluloid.
While sexual firsts can make for great, comic, cringe-worthy entertainment, there are also unsavory and much more serious possibilities. In Gregg Araki’s haunting “Mysterious Skin,” two boys are sexually abused by their baseball coach. Both flailing to make sense of the experience later in life, one (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes a hustler while the other (Brady Corbet) convinces himself he was abducted by aliens. In order to make sure nothing similar happens to her, the teenage bombshell (Ellen Page) in David Slade’s midnight movie “Hard Candy” orchestrates a sinister revenge plot for the older man she encounters on the Internet.
Even when early sexuality seems sweet, nothing is simple in adolescence. Lou Pucci is astounded when his beautiful girlfriend announces she’s only using him in Mike Mills’ smart coming-of-age tale “Thumbsucker.” A precocious blonde’s sexual sophistication provokes lust, awe and rage in the boys of a southern France townto horrific resultsin Ziad Doueiri’s “Lila Says.” In “Pretty Persuasion,” a satire in which three high school girls accuse their teacher of sexual harassment, nobody is innocent. Ringleader Kimberly (Evan Rachel Wood) uses her sexualityand her oral sex skillsto manipulate and deceive everyone around her.
While not a movie about teenagers, it seems wrong to leave “Murderball” out of a roundup of sexual firsts. Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro’s film enters the real lives of guys who have been sexually active for a while, but have had to learn how to make love all over again. One of the funniest sequences in this documentary about quadriplegic rugby is where the athletesmanly men who have limited use of all four of their limbsdiscuss the wonderful world of quadriplegic sex: the hard-ons they still proudly get, the early awkwardness and experimentation, the positions that work the best, the women that love them (and want them and boink their brains out) all in spite of their disabilities. Suburban teens could learn a lot from the brave, confident, sexy young men in this film.