Misfired Feature Debut From Josh Lawson Is Deeply Unsexy And Occasionally Offensive. Final Stroke Of Brilliance Comes Way Too Late.
Dubbed The Little Death after the French colloquial term for orgasm, the debut feature from Any Questions For Ben? star turned writer-director Josh Lawson delivers a series of vignettes revealing the kinky sex fantasies of normally prim and proper suburban types.
There’s one particularly charismatic pairing in Underbelly actor TJ Power’s deaf comic book artist, entertaining himself on a sex line late at night, with the novel twist that in order to talk to the phone sex worker, he has to rely on an intermediary Skype translator to relay his filthy mouth. Erin James puts in a gorgeous turn as the shocked but also intrigued middle woman, and there’s a genuine spark of chemistry between the pair that works perfectly in its own little bubble.
Unfortunately this is a feature length movie, not a sharply realised short, and it also comes way too late in the game to save what is, for the most part, an unfunny, poorly thought-through and occasionally offensive piece that’s all over the places in terms of tone and pace.
Lawson opens the piece as Paul, the sweet if commitment-phobic boyfriend of Bojana Novakovic’s Maeve. It’s the first of three stories to touch on rape played for comic value, as Maeve fantasises about him taking her forcefully and unawares. Within the construct of a loving, consensual relationship, this had the potential to be a button-pushing, thought-provoking challenge on the very outer edges of humour. As it is, it plays out as an overlong and surprisingly underwhelming affair despite the risqué material.
Another segue involving Alan Dukes as an overworked husband who gets toey when his narky wife (Lisa McCune) is sleeping, actually resorting to drugging her tea, is outright ugly. It also feels like it was reverse-engineered once Lawson realised that if there were, in fact, any sexual contact it would, indeed, be outright rape. As such, it’s the only sexless segment.
Flat out appalling is Kym Gyngell’s convicted sex offender who uses racism as a diversion tactic in an odd through line vaguely joining the dots between the other characters. It takes the otherwise rather tame film into even darker territory it has no idea how to deal with or resolve in any meaningful way.
The remaining stories are seriously unsexy and aimless, with an interminable series featuring Kate Box and Patrick Brammall as Rowena and Richard, a couple hoping for a baby who have to cope with an unexpected family bereavement. She realises his tears turn her on and from there on in goes to great lengths to get him crying. It’s ludicrous, but also seriously irritating, with Rowena an irksomely unlikeable character. Kate Mulvaney is a wonderful actor who’s squandered on an also overlong, boring and silly role-play sketch alongside a mismatched Damon Herriman.
Deeply unsatisfying and occasionally icky, Lawson’s The Little Death fails to satisfy in the bedroom department, with even the late blooming online romance unable to get it up to where it needed to be.
Stephen A Russell