Film review: THE LITTLE DEATH, from Built For Speed

The Little Death (the title refers to a French euphemism for orgasm) is a quirky, mostly endearing but not always hilarious Aussie comedy written and directed by and starring Josh Lawson.  Through a collection of vignettes that vary from odd to disturbing the film explores the taboo world of sexual fetishes.

Lawson plays typical quirky Aussie 30-something nice guy Paul whose stunning wife Maeve (Bojana Novakovic) much to his distress, fantasises about being raped.  Kate Box plays Rowena a woman, who is only sexually aroused when husband cries, Damien Herriman and Kate Mulvaney play a couple who clumsily attempt to add bizarre role-plays and dress-ups to their sex life.  Alan Dukes is a depressed guy going through a mid-life crisis who has a bizarre fetish in which he becomes aroused by the sight of a woman sleeping.  Unfortunately for him his snarling contemptuous and thoroughly dislikeable wife (Lisa McCune) won’t indulge his fetish or anything he does for that matter.  Kim Gyngell also pops up as a sex offender newly arrived in the neighbourhood who tries to endear himself to the locals by handing out racist biscuits.

After a slow start the film draws us into the lives of these oddball characters and their unusual relationships.  The tone and quality of the comedy varies noticeably as the film mixes dry sit-com style humour with black comedy. It pushes boundaries and often becomes uncomfortable particularly when we first here Maeve’s fetish but it’s never offensive.  Cleverly, the film saves its best segment for last as a hearing impaired woman (Erin James) who works at a skype tele conference service is forced to sign for a guy who calls a sex line.  This segment looks like a self-contained short film that could have worked on its own.  Lawson attempts to link the stories Robert Altman-style though intersecting narratives but this device isn’t very effective as the connections aren’t particularly meaningful or revealing.

The cast are fine although too many of the characters are overly-familiar quirky 30-somethings we see in every second ABC made-for-TV comedy.  As Rowena, Kate Box also seems to be channelling Kristin Wiig although that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Australian cinema has a very poor record with comedy and while The Little Death doesn’t exactly represent a quantum leap in quality it’s clever and amusing enough to inspire a little hope from local audiences.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Comedy.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Josh Lawson.

Release date: 25th Sept 2014

Running time: 95 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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