When it comes to romantic comedies, it's not often to find one that jumps out as categorically different. But "The Olivia Experiment," astutely directed by Sonja Schenk, turns the genre on its ear just enough to feel refreshingly original.
Olivia Howell (an endearingly wonky Skye Noel) is a skittish, 27-year-old virgin who contends she's "just not cut out for sex." But could her so-called asexuality be more of an emotional way station than an actual diagnosis? Her kindly gay roommate, James (Dan Gordon), who may know a thing or two about the topic, seems to think so.
Forced to face her lifelong problem, Olivia, a graduate student in gender studies, decides to explore her sexuality issues seriously once and for all. First stop: a get-it-done deflowering by Julian (Brett Baumayr), the hunky, laid-back boyfriend of Olivia's share-and-share-alike pal, Felisha (Jen Lilley).
Suffice to say this assignation proves no easy task, especially when C.J. (Michelynne Mcguire), a cute lesbian the nerve-racked Olivia enlists to videotape her entire experiment, catches Julian's wandering eye.
That the answer to Olivia's predicament may be standing right in front of her is one of the few genre tropes Alexandra Komisaruk's sweetly off-kilter script can't help but embrace. And wouldn't it have been nice, especially since her polar-opposite mother (Barbara Bragg) shows up here, to mine Olivia's childhood a bit for possible clues to her sexual "disorientation?"
Still, this is an enjoyably acted trifle that, despite some slowing in its second half, holds interest as it amusingly considers how an act so simple for some can be so tricky for others.
"The Olivia Experiment."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times