Review: Sex Tape (and the Death of Rom-Coms)
Where have all the good actresses gone and where are all the writing gods? Where’s the street-wise producer to fight the rise of archaic 90’s genre rom-coms being resurrected in a completely irrelevant modern context? Okay, so that last line didn’t exactly fit, but there is little doubt that the 90s and early 2000s were the hey-day for the “classic” rom-com. Girl meets boy, boy and girl fall in love, complication, usually some sort of physical/emotional split and then realisation of love and the ever-coveted happily ever after. It’s formulaic because for a long time it worked. And it worked very well.
These days, however, romantic comedies are a critically endangered species. Great romantic comedies are even more so. Sex Tape is an alleged romantic comedy, but it will never rival the greats such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, or The Wedding Singer. Oh, how we long for those simple days of perfect love with imperfect people. Entire generations have grown up with the ideas that soul mates exist, that the right guy or girl will show up and everything will be fine. Bridget Jones’ “I like you just as you are,” set the precedent for gawky, awkward girls across the globe and cemented Colin Firth’s heartthrob status. Though we may not be happy with this rom-com culture and what it’s doing for our love life, you can’t argue that really great (and funny!) love stories have been inherently lacking in the box-office in the recent years.
Sex Tape is not a great love story. Sex Tape is a sex comedy trying to explore the ideas of love, but didn’t we leave that behind in 2001 with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda? What else is there to say about love and sex that hasn’t already been said?
Starring Cameron Diaz as Annie and Jason Segel as Jay, this should be a match made in comedic heaven. Indeed, when Diaz is good, she is very very good, but like the rest of that saying goes and applies to this film, when she’s bad, she’s awful. Segel, another Hollywood triple-threat, cowrites with Nicholas Stoller and Kate Angelo, but this film would be best omitted from his great track record of romantic comedies.
Annie and Jay already have that connection. It’s connected and short-fused. They’re exhausted with their mundane nuclear life – married with two kids. On an odd night without the kids, they decide to attempt to perform all the acts in Alex Comfort’s 1972 manual The Joy of Sex. They go at it for apparently three hours and the icing on the cake is filming this marathon session, which I can only guess is to actually prove to his friends that Segel’s character has insane endurance. Anyway, it’s no big surprise when it gets “leaked” out and sent to all their family and friends. (Apple have recently come out in conjunction with the film’s release and stated that such a thing cannot happen with their cloud software, so all those kinky home porn vids are safe, don’t worry.)
Annie runs a blog and it’s getting a lot of interest from a children’s toy company, but the Sex Tape threatens to ruin it all. She’s no Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, who have built empires from their sex tapes, so she and Jay must attempt to destroy the tape. End of act one.
Jason Segel’s a bit of a rising star of the rom-com genre. The man has done little wrong: Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the Five Year Engagement saw him playing a charmingly adorable idiot who we couldn’t help but sympathise with. A great writer, actor and composer, Segel has a lot going for him. This film, in both acting and writing credits, is not one of them. His lines are monotonous, rarely funny and considering Segel is such a witty writer, his character relies an awful lot on slapstick humour. Annie seems to be the only character driven to destroy the sex tape, Segel’s character is just along for the ride.
Cameron Diaz has had a number of highs in her illustrious career: Charlie’s Angels, There’s Something About Mary, The Mask, even the Shrek franchise, but this is not one of them. She is a fantastic actress and for a long time has played the starring role in wet dreams across the globe but her recent film choices have seen her age badly. It seems Diaz is waiting for that amazing, even Oscar-worthy performance she has in her but the roles that land on her agent’s desk are anything but.
Rob Lowe makes an appearance as the boss of the children’s toy company looking to sponsor Annie’s blog. Lowe, whom survived his own sex tape scandal a decade earlier but still put his hand up for this role, provides no sense of intelligent guidance for our troubled couple. Instead, he’s too busy trying to snort cocaine and commission more paintings of him as the Lion King’s Rafiki (I cannot make this up).
There are few redeeming qualities for this film. It’s average plotline full of technological holes and dull characters have to make you wonder if you’ll ever see a great rom-com ever again. Watch this film if you dare, but it’s not going to ever make its way onto the date night DVD shelf.