The sex is real in John Cameron Mitchell's experiment in hardcore moviemaking; only the setting -- an animated New York cityscape, benignly watched over by a fluorescent Statue of Liberty -- is fake. To an extent, that describes the movie: a sexually daring, dramatically timid roundelay that employs unsimulated twosomes, threesomes, and even solos for skin flute in the service of subplots reminiscent of late-night cable soap. Working with a cast of eager unknowns, Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator Mitchell convenes a sexually frustrated sex therapist (Sook-Yin Lee), an auto-fellating ex-hustler (Paul Dawson), a morose dominatrix (Lindsay Beamish), and other pleasure-seeking New Yorkers at an orgiastic Brooklyn lounge called Shortbus, where anything goes, regardless of age, body image, or kink. The attempt to convey character through sexual behavior is admirable, but watching the participants through sex goggles alone eventually filters out almost everything else that's interesting about them. Yet there's something refreshingly frisky and celebratory about Mitchell's film that offsets its flaws. Given the recent cinema's track record of unfaked hate sex (Baise-Moi), diseased sex (Anatomy of Hell), or just plain lousy sex (take your pick), Shortbus' messianic sex-positive cheer seems more startling than its straight-up intercourse. Be sure to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner."
John Cameron MitchellSook Yin Lee, Lindsay Beamish, Paul Dawson, Yolanda Ross, P J DeBoy, Raphael Barker, Peter Stickles, Jay Brannan, Alan Mandell, Adam HardmanJohn Cameron MitchellTim Perell, Howard Gertler, John Cameron MitchellThinkFilm