Unsubtly titled after the French euphemism for orgasm, writer-director Josh Lawson’s sex comedy posits that sexual desire indeed prompts the end of all reason — love, honor, and communication be damned. Lawson is also an actor known for the Showtime series House of Lies, and some of The Little Death may induce flashbacks to that show’s snidely horndog-ish style of humor. In intersecting story lines, it catalogs the sexual fetishes that frustrate and complicate committed relationships (only one segment, a cute phone-sex gag that drags on way too long, occurs between strangers). One woman (Bojana Novakovic) confesses her wish to be raped by a stranger, while another (Kate Box) kidnaps her partner’s dog, hoping to induce the tears she finds irresistible.
Lawson either needed to flesh out these characters or view their failings with stiffer cynicism. As is, the series of title cards that glibly serve as the film’s menu of erotic proclivities feel like prompts to laugh at these people’s expense. Later, we’re reminded primly that they have feelings too, though with several escalating stories there’s hardly room for real emotion.
Lawson’s wishy-washiness about tone doesn’t prevent the actors from nailing the comic exchanges; Damon Herriman is particularly funny as a recent roleplay initiate who finds himself so giddy from the acting bug that during some doctor-patient themed foreplay he attempts to improve the scene by informing his partner she has hepatitis C.
Still, what’s solid about the film is cheapened by attempts to tie everything together, notably with a superficial narrative device about a registered sex offender introducing himself to the neighbors, each of whom is too busy to really care. Lawson knows how to capture that elusive comic spark in short exchanges, but they’re not enough to fire a full-length film.
The Little Death
Written and directed by Josh Lawson
Opens June 26, Landmark Sunshine
Available on demand