I went to the Outfest screening of this film at the Egyptian Theatre. I’ve been waiting for ages for a film that could pull off showing hardcore, explicit and real sex scenes without being a porno.
Set in modern-day New York City, a heterogeneous group of straights, gays and transgenders find common ground at Shortbus, an underground salon where people are free to explore their most carnal sexual desires with random hookups and nightlong orgies – sometimes even finding bits of wisdom along the way.
The superb cast of characters provides someone for everyone with whom to relate. Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist who’s never had an orgasm, seeks out ways to overcome her “pre-orgasmic” dilemmae, profoundly affecting her marriage. James (Paul Dawson), a former male escort battling depression, goes to ultimate extremes when he can’t even seem to feel happiness with his loving and devoted partner of five years, Jamie (PJ DeBoy). Struggling artist Severin (Lindsay Beamish), who succumbed to work as a dominatrix, seeks to have a meaningful relationship with someone – anyone.
Yes, the onscreen sex is real. And there’s lots of it. But rather than displaying sexually explicit scenes for the sake of cheap titillation, “Shortbus” is provocative with an actual purpose.
We’re not in Hollywood anymore.
While sex is a main focal point, the film deals with all manners of human relations. Not stressing one form over another, it shows how sex, friendship and love intermingle, and how they sometimes get confused with one another. Because one’s comfort level with their sexuality mirrors how one relates in all other relationships, showing the raw and carnal aspect of each character so explicitly works beautifully to accurately convey their motivations and struggles.
In a touching conversation, an old man identifying himself as the former mayor of New York says to the young and naive Ceth (Jay Brannan), “People come to New York to get laid … People also come to New York to be forgiven.” The latter can also be said for those who elect to see this film. Whether dealing with sexual oppression, struggling with sexual desires deemed socially deviant, seeking redemption for having already been there and done that, or feeling generally unaccepted for being who you are, the redemption value in this film is tenderly perceptible. “Shortbus” lets us know that gay, straight, bi, transgender, whatever – we all just want to feel accepted.