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Let's Talk About Sex, Simon Birch

By Sam Jemielity, Ray Pride

SEPTEMBER 14, 1998: 

Let's Talk About Sex

The underlying philosophy of this movie seems to be that whatever a woman has to say about sex, no matter how banal, it'll be interesting as long as she's immaculately made up and squeezed into a cutoff T-shirt and tight jeans. And what the heck, it's a sound-byte, image-obsessed MTV generation, and you don't see many anchors delivering the news from a toothless mouth. But if it has to be banal, at least do it in a new way. "Sex, Lies and Videotape" was never my favorite movie—although if ever two awful actors were meant to make the other look good, it's Andie MacDowell and James Spader—but Steven Soderbergh's film creates some honest relationship dilemmas, and is psychologically astute. "Let's Talk about Sex" is pure sappy melodrama, with a few MTV party scenes and gratuitous nudity. A failed relationship can't just be a failed relationship– there's got to be a catastrophic physical cause. Meanwhile, you're supposed to be surprised that women talk about blow jobs, dick size and orgasms, in bathrooms, restaurants or getting ready for a night of slinking around a bar full of beautiful people. Lena (Randi Ingerman) drinks and sleeps with sleazy rockers. Troy Beyer, who stars as Jazz, a lovelorn aspiring TV show host, wrote and directed "Let's Talk about Sex," and she's got camera presence until she delivers her own bad lines. The script is laughable: That cheesy bartender at the start of the movie can't just be a bartender (Paget Brewster), he's gotta be a video editor, and not just a video editor, he's gotta be finishing up his dissertation on sexual psychology, and he's not just out to score, and... well, what more can you ask of the man? (Sam Jemielity)

Simon Birch

A first feature from Mark Steven Johnson, the writer of "Grumpy Old Men" and "Grumpier Old Men" is "suggested" by John Irving's novel, "A Prayer for Owen Meany," which means that Irving didn't want the film called an "adaptation" after reading the script. It's easy to see why: a typical Irving cornucopia of incident, led by a small boy who never grows (a la "The Tin Drum") is impishly transformed into a Catskills comic reborn in the body of a child actor with a form of dwarfism. Sudden death, nasty clergymen, nastier Sunday school teachers and long afternoons at the ol' swimmin' hole repeatedly yukking it up over the effect of icy water on testicles follow. There are sparks of charm, but "Simon Birch" is mostly the kind of clumsy, shameless drool that made me itch for a few hours in a dark room by myself. Marc Shaiman's awful music completes the recipe for those who hadn't fully digested the Nutrasweet in the script, performances and direction. With Joseph Mazzello, David Straithairn, Oliver Platt, Jan Hooks, and Jim Carrey. Ashley Judd, a gleaming incarnation of sensual yet sensible fifties motherhood, is on screen almost as briefly as narrator Carrey. (Ray Pride)

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