A homegrown comedy about sex, love, relationships and the taboo, The Little Death takes a look at the secret sex lives of five ordinary couples.
Five couples go to increasingly desperate lengths to achieve the Big O in Josh Lawson’s disappointing comedy of errors, The Little Death. For all of the comic potential of a broad and bawdy farce, Lawson’s story doesn’t meet its own brief and, much like the lousy sex had on screen, it ends up being a frustrating letdown of uneven pacing and mismatched mood.
The movie is a loosely-tied series of skits involving well-off white couples concealing their kinks from their partners, and/or tolerating vanilla sex for fear of being judged. Lawson’s tone is the light and jaunty stuff of TV sketches, with flimsy characters who are defined by their sexual peccadilloes. The writer/director/actor makes no attempt to render them as real people; they’re caricatures of middle class closet cases, paying a price for bottling up what gets them off.
Maeve and Paul (Bojana Novakovic and Lawson) at first seem the most evolved of the couples; she lets him suck her toes though it tickles, and he invites her to share her own fantasies so he can reciprocate. His bid to be G-G-G backfires when his sweet ‘babe’ declares she wants to be raped. Rowena and Richard (Kate Box and Patrick Brammall) play the wannabe baby makers of the piece, going through the motions missionary style, without enthusiasm and/or success. Rowena resigns herself to the monotony of staring blankly at the ceiling during their trysts, and unzipping when Robert’s NSFW web browsing reaches its peak. A family tragedy comes out of the blue and coincidentally, so does Rowena: the sight of the sobbing Richard proves to be an enormous turn-on. One vigorous bouncy/bawling bed romp later, Rowena hatches a bizarre, secretive plot to keep herself in orgasms, courtesy of her sad husband’s tears.
Elsewhere, Evie and Dan (Kate Mulvany and Damon Herriman) are floundering and in therapy, and are prescribed role-play as a way to rekindle the flame. Dan takes to his characters with much too much gusto, and their lovemaking gets usurped by his method acting. The darkest of the storylines involves a bottle of sleeping pills administered surreptitiously, which puts a one-sided spark back into the dull marriage of Phil and Maureen (Alan Dukes and Lisa McCune). The sinister overtones of this ‘sleeping beauty’ storyline don’t cop to the disclaimer that Phil looks but doesn’t touch. And the less said about an omnipresent sex pest (Kym Gyngell), the better.
A final vignette involves a Skype-like service for the deaf that links a hearing-impaired horndog (TJ Power) with a phone sex worker – courtesy of a prim, pretty bookworm (Erin James) acting as the reluctant go-between. That segment comes way, way late in the film and is comparatively better than the rest. In fact, it would work better as a standalone short.
The comedy wavers from subtle digs to pratfalls, and the general inconsistency is distracting. More than once, Lawson tramples plausibility for a sight gag, such as when Evie ‘reacts’ to the idea of a niche Civil War re-enactment scene in a jump cut that reveals both of them in full garb. (It’s nigh impossible to pull off a convincing ‘WTF?’ face when you’ve gone to the trouble to set ringlets...)
If the joke’s meant to be on those who hide their desires, Lawson’s sure got a funny way of showing it, when those characters who do lay their kink cards on the table are left high and dry. [Spoiler] Maeve, for instance, ends up faking fulfilment - but gets her own ‘happy ending’ in the form of an engagement ring (which, it’s implied, is something she’s really wanted all along…). The conservative conclusions it draws are unlikely to inspire full disclosure from any closeted kinksters in the audience.
The Little Death falls well short of the randy sexcapade it wants to be. In truth, it’s a tame (bras on, doonas up) cautionary tale of people who pick the wrong partners.