What would you do if you know what would happen in your lifetime? Would you try to change your decisions, avoid the displeasing parts or meet everything head on? Well, writer/director Daniel Waters (Heathers, 1989) attempts to answer this question. What results is a satire of somewhat dark elements, oddly clever and maybe also be considered a horror flick in a certain way. “SEX and DEATH 101” is a sex comedy that is refreshing since it leaves the usual stereotypical elements of over-sexed teenagers and delves into the sex life of a guy over 30 (or 35?).
Roderick Blank (Simon Baker) is a guy who seemingly has it all; he’s about to get married, has a great job as an executive in a fast food franchise called “Swallows” and has a lot of friends. His entire life is turned upside down when he receives a mysterious e-mail that lists all the woman he has and will ever sleep with; PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE. 101 names to be exact, and the funny thing is, his bride to be is only number 29. What’s a guy to do?
Meanwhile, an enigmatic femme fatale called “Death Nell” (Winona Ryder) has become an urban folk hero because she targets those men who have committed violence against women.
“Sex and Love 101” is a dark comedy that somewhat reinforces the male anxiety. To settle down or to stay a bachelor forever? There are certain advantages and disadvantages, of course, and the character of Roderick Blank explores the why, the how and the when questions. I rather thought there were three acts in the film; Knowledge becomes power and power corrupts absolutely, the pursuit of an unreachable goal and the fear of your inevitable destiny. Personally, if I do come across such a list, I would probably be a little frightened but at the same time very curious. There is nothing like knowing exactly what your future holds, don’t it? Yes and no.
Roderick Blank goes through his list and the film results in showing quite a bit of nudity. From a stripper, a centerfold named Cynthia Rose (Sophia Monk), a busload of beautiful virgins, to ultra-hotties: Bambi (Natassia Malthe) and Thumper (Pollyanna McIntosh), from a homeless woman to a leper, Blank goes through his list and the greatest relief from all of this is the fact he won’t die until he has slept with each and every woman on the list. For the first half of the film, once you see a female character, you know that she’ll be around for the next 5-15 minutes and she’ll probably play a turning point in Blank’s life. Miranda (Leslie Bibb) also represents the woman that Blank considers a pursuit and conquest---the one who put him in the “friend zone” and she isn’t in his list. This element actually represented the idea that one can change his destiny. Well, Blank even considered necrophilia and castration just to offset the inevitable. The proceedings do have a ‘dark’ humorous side as Blank considers his options and does contain some hinted amount of surprises.
Now just how did this list come from? Actually, the answer may be simpler than you may expect and well, it‘s a bit hazy. Three men called Alpha (Robert Wisdom), Beta (Tanc Sade) and “Fred” (Patton Oswalt) are the guardians of an enigmatic group. Alpha is the intelligence, Beta is the deduction and Fred, well, he’s the wild idea. You won’t be far off in comparing this trio to the three “Norns” of fate in Norse Mythology and the these mystical beings of destiny are even present in Greek myth; who foresee the fates of both Gods and Men. Only instead of being women, this trio is made out of men. Fred is the one who feeds Blank with all the crazy ideas that he is about to have a lot of sex. Alpha well, he puts everything into play in a manner of speaking, he manipulates Blank into making his own direction.
For someone destined to have a lot of women in his lifetime, the actor has to be real smooth and devilishly handsome. I’m no judge to the male attributes but I thought that Simon Baker was
convincing enough to pull it off. The film does have a clever script so whatever requires a large suspension of disbelief can be bought into, even though his acting may seem a little mechanical quite often. The supporting cast is led by Mindy Cohn (who plays Simon’s confidant Trixie) adds a lot of depth and charm to the film’s screenplay whenever she says “I’m so glad I’m a lesbian”. Blank’s interactions are competent enough that it does assist the film in its “non-sex” moments and rather fleshes out more of Simon’s character. Why the heck does he have the last name “Blank” anyway? Winona Ryder may have limited screen time but her role is very significant. She plays the woman who has been abused and who finally realized that she is her own “Prince Charming”. I do believe her character of “Death Nell” is a social metaphor or maybe for feminism. Winona is charming in her portrayal, well, in an imbalanced sort of way.
The direction was competent enough to keep me interested for its entirety. I was entertained but not really to the point of giving praise. The film clocks in at almost two hours, and for a movie like this, it may seem somewhat overlong and slow-paced. However, the film did attempt to fully flesh out the lead character, although, the plot itself had very little to work with. It took me a bit longer to warm up to Simon Baker but I did find the film to be a satisfying enough diversion. It’s a welcome departure from the stereotypical sex comedies.
SEX and DEATH 101 is worthwhile effort, it’s sexy, funny and twisted in its own way; and yep, there‘s lot of skin in this movie. There were moments that were downright hilarious that I rather forgave its perfunctory climax and I thought it‘s a charming piece of comedy. Sometimes it’s better not to know and just go along for the ride of life.