"The list is life! " That line from "Schindler's List" is twisted almost beyond recognition in Daniel Waters' raunchy, draggy new comedy...
“The list is life!”
That line from “Schindler’s List” is twisted almost beyond recognition in Daniel Waters’ raunchy, draggy new comedy, “Sex and Death 101.” The plot revolves around a list that turns up on the e-mail of an arrogant philanderer, Roderick Blank (Simon Baker), who thinks he’s settling down to marry an airhead named Fiona (Julie Bowen). Everything changes when he sees what’s on the list: the names of every woman he’s bedded or will bed.
The list of future conquests is quite formidable, and he doesn’t want to miss out on any of them, so he breaks up with Fiona. He then proceeds to find the next woman on the list, then the next, then the next. And that’s pretty much all that happens for two hours.
Some of the conquests are more entertaining than others. Frances Fisher earns some laughs as a quip-ready writer with the improbable name of Hope Hartlight, but Roderick decides she’s too old for him and she literally vanishes into thin air. Less amusing are a lesbian couple, Bambi (Nastassia Malthe) and Thumper (Pollyanna McIntosh), who quickly exhaust him with their athletic eroticism. Winona Ryder walks through her scenes as Death Nell, a top-heavy femme fatale who seems destined to have the last word.
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Contributing to the overlong running time are Roderick’s tiresome buddies (Dash Mikok, Brian Ross) and a chorus of advisers, identified only as Alpha (Robert Wisdom), Beta (Tanc Sade) and Fred (Patton Oswalt), who guide Roderick from a purgatorylike cloud.
Waters’ screenplay requires Baker to do a lot of talking to the audience, as he waxes philosophical (at one point he decides that answers are really “questions in disguise”), apologizes for wrong turns (“Sorry, I thought that was a dream sequence, too”) and even tries to come up with a definition of “the meaning of life.” (Don’t ask.)
As a writer, Waters is best-known for creating Ryder’s sharp black comedy, “Heathers,” and Bruce Willis’ self-indulgent bomb, “Hudson Hawk.” As a director, he tends to waste actors (Ryder and Baker can do much better than their work here) and he fails to establish a consistent comic tone.
Somehow, at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival, “Sex and Death 101” ended up winning the Golden Space Needle for best director. The runners-up included Eytan Fox (“The Bubble”), Frank Oz (“Death at a Funeral”), Olivier Dahan (“La Vie En Rose”) and John Jeffcoat (“Outsourced”). There must be an explanation.
John Hartl: email@example.com