By: Addison Wylie
You’ve got to hand it to Josh Lawson. He quickly informs movie goers of his invisible boundaries in his dark comedy The Little Death. There’s no second guessing. The problem is he sets the tone with a sour scene starring a belle, her beau, and her rape fantasy proposal.
The Little Death prominently displays sexual fetishes – some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t heard of, some you wish you never heard of – and slaps on his brand of twisted, awkward humour. He scores some laughs with absurd situations and baffled characters who try and comprehend the ridiculousness. Most of the time though, his screenplay handles the sexual behaviour in selfish ways.
Let’s begin with the end: the film’s finale is fantastic. Erin James plays a phone operator who reconnects and translates calls for deaf customers. A young man phones her during the late shift, and requests a phone sex hotline. James’ Monica is stuck in a conundrum while her hot customer tries to lip read her puzzlement towards a bothered “lady of the night”.
This scenario works because everyone is “in” on the ridiculousness, and everyone tries to make the best out of an embarrassing situation. The characters make decisions that are believable, and their willingness to march through the uncomfortable disconnected conversation draws some authentic, hearty chuckles. This gut busting segment could easily hold its weight as a short film separated from Lawson’s flawed feature film debut.
Unfortunately, the majority of vignettes feature characters who are the polar opposite of Monica’s nightly escapade.
The fetishes range from those who are turned on by role playing to those who are electrified by tears or sleepy unconsciousness. The various sexually starved individuals who star in these sketches are self-centred and put on a charade to mask how desperate they are. This could be relatable for some real-life couples, but that’s the only attainable logic during these tasteless scenes.
I believed these people craved sexual satisfaction, but the film loses credibility when the truth is bent to an unrealistic degree and the character steps out of their continuity. The female who becomes aroused after seeing her man cry stretches her façade to unreasonable lengths and is soon torturing him emotionally; including faking a life-threatening diagnoses. The man who is obsessed with watching his snoozing wife becomes more ugly as we watch him personalize her without permission. You can sense the air within the film thinning as the audience watches “outrageous” representations that are not really funny and not necessarily true.
During the insanity, a new neighbour wanders from house-to-house introducing himself, handing out a politically incorrect treat, and informing his community that he’s obliged to tell others he’s a former sex offender. Its a way for Lawson to communicate to audiences that things could be more pathetic. The passive comments towards the neighbour starts as an amusing running joke, but end up being overkill as he appears on screen more.
The Little Death concludes the off-kilter couples in ways that a sitcom writing staff would, but I chalk this fumble up as a mistake by a screenwriting beginner. What’s unforgivable, however, is Lawson’s poor comedic judgement towards these sexual perversions.