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Love, Sex and Eating the Bones (March 4/04)

The first thing you need to know about Love, Sex and Eating the Bones is that it's really not as bad as the title might suggest. Quirky in a typically Canadian way, the film is a romantic comedy that almost manages to overcome the inherent conventions of the genre.

Hill Harper stars as Michael, a part-time security guard with an insatiable appetite for porn. Though he's clearly unafraid of talking to the opposite sex, it doesn't seem as though he's had a relationship in a while. That changes when he meets Jasmine (Marlyne Afflack), an attractive and independent businesswoman who's got problems of her own (she's turned to chastity as a solution to her men woes). The two turn to their respective friends for advice - he to fellow guards Sweets (Mark Taylor) and Kennedy (Ed Robertson), and she to cousin Peaches (Kai Soremekun) - and attempt to overcome Michael's bizarre sexual peccadilloes.

Love, Sex and Eating the Bones has all the beats of a romantic comedy, including a meet cute between the two leads and the expected temporary breakup towards the end, and there's no denying that the film works on that level. The actors are charismatic and engaging, with Harper and Afflack making a convincing couple. Robertson, of the Barenaked Ladies, proves to be a natural performer - though the role doesn't require him to do more than prance around gaily and egg on Michael.

But the film never quite becomes anything more than a marginally entertaining time-waster, which is a shame considering writer/director Sudz Sutherland's obvious enthusiasm for the material. That it's easy enough to ignore the fact that a large majority of the movie's jokes fall flat is a testament to Sutherland's natural ability in creating characters worth caring about. Unfortunately, he imbues the two central figures with personality traits that are convenient, to say the least - Michael is addicted to porn, while Jasmine wants nothing to do with sex. Then again, such contrivances are part and parcel with the romantic comedy genre.

The film's shift towards melodrama in the last third isn't all that surprising, but Sutherland takes far too long in concluding his story. It's a given that Michael and Jasmine are going to get back together by the time the credits roll, which makes this last section of the film somewhat superfluous. Still, for a first feature, Love, Sex and Eating the Bones isn't bad. Sutherland's clearly got talent as a director, though as a screenwriter, his reliance on clichés is obvious.

out of