Deliciously Dark Valentine – SEX AND DEATH 101
SEX AND DEATH 101 asks you to step outside of normal – with fantastic results.
Ahh, Valentine’s Day – the day we celebrate the monetization of love, when our personal relationships are repackaged and sold back to us wholesale, in the form of giant teddy bears, heart shaped boxes o’ chocolate, or whatever mindless romantic comedy they’ve strategically released on Blue-ray & DVD. It’s the Superbowl of the heart, when everyone’s rooting for the same team – LOVE, and naysayers are branded infidels and treated like Pro-choicers at a Republican rally. But if you’re like me – a fan and supporter who resists being made a lemming in the name of love – there’s a movie for this season of roses: writer/director Daniel Waters‘ Sex &Death 101 (2007), a romantic comedy by way of the Twilight Zone. The story of Roderick Blank (Simon Baker), a man who’s soon to wed the woman of his dreams (Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen), who receives via email a long list of his lovers, past present and future – problematic given the fact his fiancée comes in at number 29 of 101 names! The rest of the film chronicles Roderick’s descent into sexual madness (some would call it freedom), and if you accept the central metaphysical conceit – of an “Oracle” run by a group of bumbling technicians (Robert Wisdom, Tanc Sade and Patton Oswalt) – you’ll be in for a fun ride, one in which romantic tropes are skewered and the masculine archetype gets a shellacking. After all, as budding Lotharios are taught, “if you know you’re going to get lucky you probably are,” and this movie takes that idea of a self-fulfilling confidence to its logical extreme. Along the way S&D101 explores unhealthy relationships, asks serious questions about freewill, and examines our individual responsibility for the happiness of others. And despite these noble pursuits, it’s also a lot of fun – because at its core it’s essentially a superhero movie disguised as a romantic comedy – Roderick’s list fulfilling the same function as Green Lantern‘s ring or Stanley Ipkiss‘s Mask. And there’s also an evil villain, Death Nell (Winona Ryder), a serial killer out to eliminate “bad men,” whose crusade mirrors Roderick’s thematically and promises an eventual showdown. Give Waters (who also wrote Heathers) a lot of credit – he still has the balls to explore the vanishing artform known as the dark comedy. Sure, S&D101 has its flaws (mainly related to budget), but it tries more than other films ever do, and achieves many of its goals. And though it won’t sell you any target=”_blank”>giant teddy bears, it’s movie about romance that not only entertains but also makes you think, proving you don’t always have to check your brain at the door in affairs of the heart.