How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town Review

By
Movies:
Isaac Feldberg

Reviewed by:
Rating:
2
On May 12, 2016
Last modified:May 12, 2016

Summary:

Thematically sweet-natured and narratively salacious, How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town feels caught between rom-com formula and envelope-pushing debauchery, opting instead for a decent yet inescapably dull middle ground.

How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town Review

Despite its amusingly obscene, on-the-nose title, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town isn’t quite as smutty and salacious as you might think. The third full-length feature from writer-director Jeremy LaLonde (The Untitled Work of Paul ShepherdSex After Kids), it simultaneously revolves around a carnally canny columnist (Jewel Staite) trying to yank a group of tightly wound, sexually repressed yokels out of their shells and feels exactly like the kind of movie one of those fussy, fretful townspeople might make in the pursuit of trying – against every chaste impulse in their body – to be edgy.

That is to say, though How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town isn’t the raucous and hard-R-rated sex comedy some might expect, it is obsessive about all articles and activities anatomical, from the aforementioned group-sex event to more scatological gags, most verbal as opposed to visual. It’s obsessive to the degree that one needn’t wonder from where LaLonde drew inspiration for characters; none of them, save Staite’s Cassie Cranston, feel like much more than mouthpieces each intended to communicate a specific sexual foible, stereotype, or hangup.

There’s the baby-crazed ice queen (named Heather, and played by Lauren Lee Smith with taut rigidity), who only has sex with her schlubby husband Adam (Ennis Esmer) in order to conceive. Elsewhere, Polly (Tommie-Amber Pirie) and Chester (Jonas Chernick) are two co-workers and friends both too gawky and nervous to take the next step they both want. And Bruce (Mark O’Brien) is the self-proclaimed ladykiller who’s both profoundly obnoxious and about to be left by his sexually prolific but fed-up wife Alice (Katharine Isabelle).

Into this unwieldy mix of cartoonish kooks walks Cassie, who left town years earlier after being slut-shamed by assorted mean girls (including her shrill mother, played by Lauren Holly) on the night she’d planned to lose her virginity to none other than Adam, once Cassie’s high school beau. Back in town for less-than-dearly departed mom’s funeral, Cassie quickly finds that the town’s prudish attitudes remain virtually unchanged – though some residents, including Heather, balk at being judged for such conservative views. Stressed about a book contract, Cassie couldn’t care less about old acquaintances crawling out of the woodwork until a few of them stumble across a curious idea: hosting an orgy to prove once and for all (to Cassie, to the world, but mostly to themselves) that the townspeople aren’t as strait-laced as all that.

How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town Review

LaLonde’s script eschews subtlety at every turn – not that a setup like his exactly warrants much – which unfortunately means that as the characters move toward their overly strategized night of communal debauchery, their motives and mannerisms seemingly hinge upon the demands of the plot more than any of their own desires. At 101 minutes, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town is relatively compact, but it still takes too long in table-setting for its central event and not nearly enough time following through on the kinky hilarity that should be native to such an occurrence.

Still, while the film fails to deliver that many immodest thrills, getting its gratuitous nudity out of the way within the first 10 minutes then relying on sexually charged vernacular to power it through the majority of its runtime, the film just about earns most of its moments of sweetness. Eventually, it gives itself over to a pat, predictable, and nonetheless pleasurable subplot involving the destined-to-be-together Cassie and Adam. That turns out to be a great move, given that the warmly sardonic Straite, who takes cues from Alicia Silverstone in some places and Alyson Hannigan in others, pairs nicely with Esmer, all bumbling affability. Their scenes together feel the least forced in a movie built around putting its players in comically uncomfortable sexual situations.

Elsewhere, the performances are fairly spotty. Smith veers too far into caricature to sell the more emotional moments her character aims for late in the pic, and O’Brien is appropriately sniveling and irritable without ever bringing out the other elements of his personality LaLonde half-heartedly sketches in some snatches of dialogue with Alice. And Pirie and Chernick are never all that believable as a romantic pairing, though the performers are both committed enough to their respective characters that the two are entertaining to watch regardless.

But How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town‘s main deterrent, in the end, is that it fails to generate much interest, comedic or dramatic, in its titillating nexus – a boundary-breaking orgy that will save Cassie from reneging on her book contract and liberate the closeted townspeople around her. That’s largely due to a significant failure of imagination. The closest LaLonde comes to being truly LGBTQ+ friendly is to add a small splash of bisexuality for what essentially amounts to a punchline, and even his heterosexual pairings are largely vanilla and relate more to testing marital limits than sexual ones. The event’s never sexy – but it’s scarcely as side-splitting as it should be, either.

For a movie ostensibly about sexual experimentation, the pic’s disappointingly committed to formula in just about every department – and it’s downright dismaying that, as a result, the thrill of watching buttoned-down folk let loose for once is gone before it ever really has a chance to take hold.

How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town Review
Disappointing

Thematically sweet-natured and narratively salacious, How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town feels caught between rom-com formula and envelope-pushing debauchery, opting instead for a decent yet inescapably dull middle ground.

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