Amy's Orgasm
aka Amy's O (video title)

Amy's Orgasm

USA, 2001. Rated R. 85 minutes.

Cast: Julie Davis, Nick Chinlund, Caroline Aaron, Mitchell Whitfield, Jennifer Bransford, Jeff Cesario
Writer: Julie Davis
Music: Jonathan Weiss & David Powell (supervisors)
Cinematographer: Mark Mervis
Producers: Julie Davis, Fred Kramer
Director: Julie Davis


Grade: C+ Review by Carlo Cavagna

Read Carlo's interview with Julie Davis.

The second feature from writer/director/producer/editor Julie Davis (I Love You, Don't Touch Me!), Amy's Orgasm is nominally a romantic comedy, but can be better described as a humorous exploration of the whole Mars/Venus thing. Or, more accurately, the whole Mars/Amy Mandell thing.

Amy Mandell, portrayed by jane-of-all-trades Davis, is a famous self-help author unable to find happiness in her success. Amy claims she's twenty-nine, though everything about her (comportment, accomplishments, friendships, persona) suggests that she's had more than one twenty-ninth birthday. The movie asks us to sympathize with the poor little rich girl, but that's not as difficult as it might be because of her sharp wit and frank attitudes, particularly with regard to sex, which Amy hasn't had in four years. Like Jessica Stein in Kissing Jessica Stein, Amy is a bundle of neuroses that could have walked straight off the set of a Woody Allen movie.

Despite her quirks, Amy does not seem all that discontented on her own, and her self-help message is a healthy one--that women must learn to rely on themselves for fulfilment and happiness. Ah, but it is axiomatic in the movies that there is something fundamentally wrong with people who desire to be on their own, even if they live perfectly functional, successful, and rich lives. Amy must learn the error of her solo ways. That's where shock-jock Matthew Star (Nick Chinlund) comes in.

As the love interest, Chinlund is an unusual casting choice. Julie Davis as Amy, between orgasmsThough few know this character actor's name, his face is recognizable as "that guy who always plays the jerk," or possibly "that guy who always plays one of the bad guy's henchmen." Chinlund is not quite William Zabka, the bully from The Karate Kid, but he's from the same sector of the acting world. Because it's difficult to accept Chinlund as a true romantic lead and not the caricatured Other Guy that the heroine shunts aside to be with the hero, Matthew is immediately off-putting. We can identify with Amy's own negative reaction to the sexist Howard Stern wannabe.

It doesn't take long, however, for Amy to change her attitude, particularly when she realizes that Matthew is nothing like his on-air persona. This is where Amy's Orgasm struggles with authenticity. Is it realistic that a self-help author who advocates female self-empowerment would date a shock-jock who invites women on his show for the purpose of ogling their breasts--regardless of how nice and non-sexist he is in person? Isn't any guy who takes that route to show-biz success a little fishy? Matthew's brother tells Amy in no uncertain terms that the on-air Matthew is the real Matthew, but the movie doesn't pursue the issue farther.

In another unresolved Matthew/Amy conflict, Matthew has an on-air segment called "Kiss-and-Tell," during which he talks about his dating life. After his first time out with Amy, he tells his audience about it. We never see Kiss-and-Tell again, however. What happens with the segment? How can a person who does such a segment later lecture Amy for discussing their relationship in a public forum, and why doesn't Amy call Matt on his hypocrisy? Again, the film skirts the issue.

These unmined tensions fall into the category of missed opportunities; without them, the film still works. This movie is not about Matthew Starr, anyway. For the purposes of Amy's Orgasm, The Boyfriend could be any guy at all. Matthew is conceived as a shock-jock to add comedy, not to create dramatic opportunities.

Amy's Orgasm is about Amy, and the irony of a self-help author unable to help herself. As Amy, Davis has a tendency to overact, but in a comedy, that's hardly a noticeable shortcoming. Amy's musings, illustrated occasionally by visual sequences that give life to her fantasies, are the best elements of the movie. Caroline Aaron, as Amy's PR manager, is an effective foil who refuses to be a porter for Amy's emotional baggage, yet undermines Amy's self-esteem with repeated comments about the lines on her face or the dimensions of her behind.

Amy's Orgasm doesn't rise to the level of a women's High Fidelity, as the latter movie hilariously touches on a broad cross-section of universal foibles, while Amy's problems are distinctly Amy's own. Nevertheless, Amy, who, like Fidelity's Rob Gordon, speaks directly into the camera, has a delightful way of describing intimacy and relationship problems to which most people (particularly women) should be able to relate.

Amy and Matthew have a bit of a phony relationship, but the film works in spite of it. The story's lack of realism is offset by the authenticity of the thematic content about relationships and intimacy. Romantic comedies in general aren't terribly realistic, anyway. Amy's Orgasm is more truthful than most.

Review © August 2002 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images 2002 Catch Light Films. All Rights Reserved.

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