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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Better Than Sex (2000)

"Yeah, that's what it's all about. It's sex—for one night, without any commitment. Yeah, we both knew that."
- Josh (David Wenham)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: September 10, 2003

Stars: David Wenham, Susie Porter, Kris McQuade, Simon Bossell, Catherine McClements
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for (strong sexual content and language)
Run Time: 01h:23m:20s
Release Date: July 29, 2003
UPC: 043396003651
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- BB+B D

DVD Review

For a film that calls itself Better Than Sex, one would think the script would focus less on fornication and more on the dreaded "R" word—relationships. But writer-director Jonathan Teplitzky's camera spends a lot of time admiring naked bodies and chronicling lusty acts of pleasure. Sex is everywhere—in the bed, on the floor, in the tub—and when Josh (David Wenham) and Cin (Susie Porter) aren't doing it, they're talking about it, either in their heads or to the audience. Still, this voyeuristic look at how a one-night stand evolves over the course of three days into a potential (gulp!) lifelong commitment is frank, honest, and occasionally charming.

Unfortunately, though, there's just too much sex. Call me crazy, but after a while I found all the groping and moaning really boring. The sex isn't offensive, it's not terribly graphic, nor is it even gratuitous. Often presented with a light comic twist, the heavy horizontal coupling sparks blushes of recognition from the audience, but that doesn't alleviate the ennui that eventually sets in. Although the unwavering spotlight on the two main characters is interesting at first, such undivided attention soon becomes suffocating. As a result, Better Than Sex has trouble sustaining interest, despite its brief 83-minute running time.

The story is both as simple and complex as sex itself. Josh and Cin (that's short for Cynthia) meet at a party, don't find each particularly desirable, but wind up sharing a cab ride home. Josh mentions he's only in town for three days, so both jump at the chance to jump in the sack and satisfy their physical cravings without the excess baggage of emotional involvement. Yet almost from the start, the two click and allow their casual encounter to linger. As the days drag on (and they do drag), Josh and Cin often revert to the comfort zone of sex rather than confront the pressing intimacy issues creeping into their affair. In between, they bicker, banter, and learn about the personalities lurking beneath their well-explored skins.

Josh and Cin's burgeoning relationship also allows them (and their friends) the opportunity to analyze and critique not only each other, but also the opposite sex at large. Teplitzky employs the now clichéd convention of inter-cutting "interviews" with the couple and their pals into the main story, so they can discuss their feelings and add perspective to the on-screen action. The device can work well, but only if the characters make provocative points. In Better Than Sex, they don't. The "documentary" inserts may have been designed to give the story a more universal feel, but, like the repetitive sex, the interviews often seem like plain and simple padding for a paper thin plot—especially when the topics include a man's inability to pee straight, why women primp for hours before an evening out, and both sexes' views on performing and receiving oral sex.

Wenham and Porter strut around in the buff half the time, but handle the scenes with such ease and relaxation they make the viewer feel like a true peeping tom. That's a good thing for the film, as we need to feel a part of their relationship to appreciate it. The relative anonymity of both actors works in their favor as well, adding extra believability to their roles. Wenham and Porter work exceptionally well together, presenting a normal guy and gal who aren't too deep or too quirky, so almost anyone can identify with them.

But does their story warrant a full-fledged film? I don't think so. Sure, it's fun to watch Josh and Cin forge a relationship out of a one-night bump-and-grind, but such a flimsy idea needs sturdier framework and a sharper edge to support our voyeurism. Better Than Sex might arouse our passions, but it leaves our brains unfulfilled.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The widescreen anamorphic transfer possesses a slightly grainy, low-budget, indie look that nicely compliments the film's subject matter and style. The source material is quite clear, with only the faintest specks occasionally cropping up. Porter's freckle face and Wenham's stubbly beard are well delineated, and fleshtones are exceptionally true, despite a rather drab color palette. Contrast and shadow detail remain strong throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: For a dialogue-driven film like Better Than Sex, a DD 5.1 track seems excessive, but the multiple channels are creatively employed and add spicy accents to some scenes. Hearing heavy, lusty breathing spread across five speakers was a fresh sonic experience for me, and quite effective. On the whole, ambient sounds are all too rare, but noticeably perk up the action. The track smoothly plays across the front channels as well, with occasional isolation when warranted.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring I'm With Lucy, Punch-Drunk Love
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not much here except a few trailers. Cast and crew bios or a director's commentary certainly would have enhanced the disc, but are not included.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

If you're looking for a cute, adult-themed date flick, Better Than Sex meets all the requirements. Unfortunately, this featherweight romantic comedy stalls halfway through and never revs up again. Despite likeable characters and a provocative premise, the film craves a shot of Viagra to pump up its intellectual potency. Without it, Better Than Sex is pretty limp.

 


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