Love, Sex and Watching (Love and Sex*)

The tagline of Kinsey is “Let’s talk about sex”. And they do. Zoologically. Kinsey is one of those films you can admire rather than love. It is stuffed to the gills with interesting facts, figures and characters but unfortunately has the pesky structure of Kinsey’s life to reign them in. But there is nothing wrong with having a film which makes us think. What it makes us think is still how much do we know about our own or others sexual proclivities? Which is where 9 Songs comes in.

There is a shot at the end of 9 Songs, where the camera pans out at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gigs audience. The couple in 9 Songs, for all the banal conversations and sex, are remarkably ordinary. That shot suggests that their story could be, bar a few details, the story of anyone in that audience. In pushing that identification out to the BRMC audience, and by extension the movie audience, it is really saying we are all a bit boring. And coming out of 9 Songs you do feel a bit bored, and hence boring. As such it is really a rather audacious movie. Winterbottom takes a romance and takes out all the interesting bits. Which is, oddly, where Hitch comes in.

Hitch is a potentially audacious romantic comedy in its own right. It posits the not uncommon idea that there are rules to dating, and if you crack these secrets then you can get anyone. And then, by virtue of the demand for conflict in a romantic comedy, then goes and breaks all the rules it sets up. Romantic comedies are by their very nature cynical movies, exploiting an audience that wants a happy ending that has been earned. And also that unlike Kinsey and 9 Songs, romance is nothing to do with sex. Hitch takes place in a remarkably chaste universe where ludicrously attractive people can end up with fat blokes because they like their personality. The films spends most of its running time dismantling all of Will Smith’s rules, and yet is too much in love with its central conceit to ever really convince. You cannot learn how to get a date from the titular character, but you are convinced there are rules to snag that happy ever after. And rule one: be the lead in a romantic comedy.

But if you want sex, go see some rubbish indie bands at the Brixton Academy. Bum sex in a hotel room is a mere 69 minutes away. Something that I am sure Kinsey would have observed and catalogued with a dispassionate air of the average member of the 9 Songs audience.

(*Not the lacklustre Famke Janssen and Jon Favreau rom-com of 2000.)