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Movie Review: Orgies and the Meaning of Life
My old friend Manny Progdon (née Danny Trogdon, aka Nina del Groodt) and I have a shorthand when it comes to discussing our opinion of any particular movie. A common answer to the question, "Did you like it?" is "Well, it was more interesting than good" or "I admired it more than I liked it." Had Manny | Danny | Nina asked what I thought of Orgies and the Meaning of Life, one of those two answers would have been my reply. Some aspects of the film worked well; some felt glaringly off-kilter, but all in all I do think it's a film worth seeing, considering and discussing. While it fails from time to time, at least it's ambitious. And there's plenty of well-lit sex.
Multi-hyphenate Brad T. Gottfred plays Baxter, a young writer with a litany of personal and professional issues. In short, his dad is a celebrated Christian author-slash-bully who isn't happy that Baxter has decided to write a book about stick figures who fuck and pontificate about the existence of a portal into the 3-D world. Meantime, Baxter is screwing his way through Los Angeles in search of "The One". Unfortunately, the only way he can keep his pud stiff is to imagine that while he is filling up Ms. Right Now with peen, he is also banging (or being banged by) his ex-wife, his old girlfriend, his agent, a one-night stand et al. Like I said, it's an ambitious film.
The challenge with ambitious films, though, is that in order for them to totally work they require a degree of narrative control and invention that few directors and editors possess. More simply, if you are telling a complex story, it is extraordinarily difficult to keep things clear and in balance to the audience. For instance, after watching Orgies and the Meaning of Life I felt that there was clearly a relationship between Baxter's neighbor, his dog and the drag queen (underplayed nicely by executive producer Peter Stormare). What that relationship was, though, I have no earthly clue. If it was suggested in the film, it was an opaque reference that eluded me.
There is also the whole issue that a good portion of the film takes place entirely in Baxter's mind. While director Gottfred does a fine job of cinematically separating the real from the imagined, it can be frustrating when a genuine, honest moment is chugging along nicely only to be interrupted by yet another elliptical, fantasy sequence. Every scene between Baxter and the complex and luscious Allison (Lindsay Wray, giving the best performance of the film) is intriguing. Why then must we abruptly bounce over to a cloying scene between a young Baxter and his domineering father? I understand the intent. I just don't see the necessity.
That said, there is enough in Orgies and the Meaning of Life to keep most people interested. Most micro-budget films resort to long set-pieces of dialogue to move the story along which, obviously, can quickly grow tiresome in the absence of a clever writer or compelling actors. This film moves. Sure, not everything works but it doesn't linger and try to force the point. Rather, it moves onto the next scene, the next plot, the next character. If you thought Baxter's interactions with Denny were more obvious than they were intended to be, at least Allison is now knocking on his door. Give Orgies a chance. Hell, give every orgy a chance!
Orgies and the Meaning of Life opens today at the Laemmle Grande