Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Sessions: Late Movie Review.

The Sessions.

Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt

Writer and Director:  Ben Lewin.

** and a 1/2 *'s out of four.

Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) is starting to think about sex a lot lately and really would like to perform the act before he gets to be too old.  At the age of 38 Mark has never been with a woman and despite his other achievements such as getting a college degree and being a pretty successful poet.  Having sex is the one thing he doesn't want to miss out on.  He has a good point, and the fact that he is good looking and intelligent shouldn't stop him from finding somebody to hop into bed with him , right?  Well Mark's main reason on why he hasn't had sex yet is because of his condition.  At the age of six Mark got infected with polio and can't move his arms or legs.  His mind is fully intact, and can move his head, but that's about it.  In order to help loose his virginity he seeks the advice of his priest(William H. Macy) and hires a sex surrogate(Helen Hunt) to help him out.

There have been countless other movies before of characters loosing their virginity, but this one was a little bit better.  I liked that the sex didn't just happen in one scene like the other's do.  Instead, it took it's time in having both of these characters become more intimate and learn about each other more. No one is an expert with their partner the first time you have sex with them.  It's an ongoing learning experience where not only you understand your partner but you understand yourself as well.   In another director's hand's the sex in this would have just focused on being solely erotic and I'm glad that it didn't.   Yes Helen Hunt is very sexy in this, but her character doesn't treat nudity as a huge deal and that's really impressive.  In other movies when a woman disrobes it's all done in slow motion or there's some sort of strip club dance scene that proceeds it. Even when she asks Mark if he likes looking at her and she takes her time in removing her clothes.  It never is overly erotic.  In fact it's the only sex scene I would not feel too awkward if friends or family walked in on.  

All of the performances in this were great, but John Hawkes was amazing.  He has such a wide range of emotions and to do that with just his head was really impressive.  I also liked how his character never treated his illness as a crutch or an excuse to seek out sympathy.  Mark is a fully functional human being and it was great to see him being treated not as a hero or a victim, but as a person.

"The Sessions" was based on Mark O'Brien's article "Seeing a Sex Surrogate" and for the most part everything in this felt honest and true.  Yet there was one moment where the power goes off in his apartment and he becomes stuck.  I know this was done to build up some sort of tension, but it just felt unnecessary.  I'm sure a guy as intelligent as he is would have had a backup plan for emergencies like this.  I also have to mention that when Mark actually does have intercourse the movie begins showing random images of flowers blooming, ocean waves hitting the shoreline and other beautiful things.  All that was missing was the cliche shot of a train entering a tunnel.

Yet with even it's few faults, this is still one to seek out when you have a chance.  It's an endearing, funny, sexy, sad, heartwarming feature that I enjoyed.


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