Love & Sex

Friday August 25, 2000

     "Love & Sex" leaves you with the feeling that writer-director ValerieBreiman has lived through the rocky road of romance, and that Breiman is committed to her people. She hopes you care about them because they're worth caring about to her.
     "Love & Sex" hasn't a strong, distinctive style, but what sets it a cut above many similar films is that for all its surface humor it has substance and emotional depth. Breiman has written roles for Famke Janssen and Jon Favreau in which they can show how relationships and the individuals within them constantly shift and change whether they realize it or not.
     When we meet Janssen's Kate Welles she's single and cynical. She's submitted to her editor (Ann Magnuson) at an L.A.-based women's magazine a blunt piece implying sexual skill guarantees a woman nothing. The outraged editor, known behind her back as "the anti-Christ," gives Kate 24 hours to knock out an upbeat piece in its place about love and sex.
     As Kate dictates a memo to herself her banalities fill up the soundtrack as we flash back to what her love life was really like. After a string of dead-end romances--how is it that so attractive and poised a woman as Kate can get mixed up with such jerks?--she is stopped in her tracks at an art gallery by the painter, Adam Levy (Favreau), whose work is on display. The paintings are very Francis Bacon in their tormented images, yet Adam comes across as a mensch. Kate has hit him like a ton of bricks and he pursues her with determined ardor.
     Kate and Adam are swiftly caught up in a grand romance, but as they start living together and the first bloom of passion ebbs, they start getting on each other's nerves. Kate especially dreads the specter of repeating her parents' marriage, which she views as 15 years of love followed by 20 years of indifference.
     Kate is not very good at grasping that relationships have to be worked at, or that a sad turn of events between her and Adam must be dealt with if their love is to endure and grow. Eventually, Adam throws in the towel, but his stance of proud indifference swiftly crumbles.
     "Love & Sex" now gets underway in earnest, as both embark on inconsequential affairs that only underline how much they miss each other. They hadn't realized that along the line they had become friends as well as lovers, but can they be friends without being lovers--or vice versa?
     Lots of romance movies turn upon the immaturity of men, but Breiman sees in Kate no less a need to grow up and understand the futility of expecting perfection in others--especially when there is no way she can live up to such a standard herself. Adam certainly can be overbearing and indeed downright obnoxious, but there's no questioning that his love for Kate is unshakable and inescapable. He lives in a state of torment wanting her back.
     Breiman is consistently able to see the humor as well as the pain in Kate and Adam's predicament. Both Janssen, whose beauty becomes tinged with gauntness and strain, and the stocky Favreau, who has a warm teddy bear charm, have a chemistry all the more credible because initially she seems a little too glamorous, a little too striking, for him. The more we see them together, however, the more they seem right for each other.
     Both Janssen and Favreau make strong impressions, showing us the many facets, moods and contradictions of Kate and Adam that draw them together as well as drive them apart. The film belongs to them, but Josh Hopkins proves a scene-stealer as a sweet-natured, hunky minor martial arts star, given to bad impressions of his hero, Robert De Niro. He's a sizzling lover for Kate but none too smart and adamantly unreflective.
     "Love & Sex" is not quite original enough to make much of a dent in the marketplace, but it shows its stars to advantage and marks a solid start in features for Breiman.

Love & Sex, 2000. Unrated. A Lions Gate Films release of a Behaviour Worldwide presentation of a Bogart/Barab/Wyman production. Writer-director Valerie Breiman. Producers Timothy Scott Bogart, Martin J. Barab, Brad Wyman. Executive producer Mark Damon. Cinematographer Adam Kane. Editor Martin Applebaum. Production designer Sara Sprawls. Set decorator Nancy Clements. Running time:1 hour, 21 minutes. Famke Janssen as Kate Welles. Jon Favreau as Adam Levy. Josh Hopkins as Joey Santino. Ann Magnuson as Ms. Steinbacher.

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