Relax...It's Just Sex (1999)

Written and Directed by P.J. Castellaneta
Starring Mitchell Anderson, Jennifer Tilly, Cynda Williams, Lori Petty, Eddie Garcia

My Advice: Matinee.

A group of friends hang out together, drink together, get pissed off together, and deal with life's ups and downs together.  Over the course of several months, they have to deal with life, death, lies and pretty much all the other crap that comes from being around other humans and breathing.

What Castellaneta and company have done is to not only present a film that can be considered a primer for hetero folks that homosexuals are people too (a "teaching film" introducing you to homosexual men and women before the film actually begins is priceless) but also a romantic dramedy that has more heart than most big studio outings you'll see this year.  Yes, sure, it's got a nice and convenient spectrum of characters of all types and sexual preferences ready to react to everything from one character's announcement that he's HIV positive, to another's claims that AIDS is not related to HIV, and even, most shockingly, to even another character's rape of a mugger in retribution for a vicious beating.  I don't specify which characters because that smells like spoilers.  But throughout all of this the movie doesn't ever feel like a "homosexual movie," whatever the hell that means, it's just a movie about people and love.  A benefit of having such a diverse wealth of characters, is that you get to see no easy answers about any of the subjects covered.  Although the film sometimes skirts the edge of preachiness about a couple of issues, it never falls off the edge.

What impressed me more than anything else was the honesty with which these characters and situations were presented and dealt with.  The dialogue and events were never unbelievable like most romantic comedies, where you find yourself thinking, "Oh, if only people spoke like that."  "Oh, if only life was really like that."  Here, you have real people in a real world, and because of that you become interested in them and can relate to them.  This of course makes it all the more satisfying.  Bottom line--it's a film that deals intelligently and honestly with its subject matter and has the good sense not to pander or wimp out on its ending.  In this day and age, it definitely stands apart from the pack.  Recommended.

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