Unscrewed

A dark and discomfiting comedy of sexual insecurity, this scruffy mockumentary about a couple's odyssey through sex therapy marks the feature-film debut of documentary-trained writer and director Leslie Shearing. Upwardly mobile professional couple Mary and Joe St. John (Heather Smith, Hans Hoffman) enter their seventh year of marriage deeply in love, and...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A dark and discomfiting comedy of sexual insecurity, this scruffy mockumentary about a couple's odyssey through sex therapy marks the feature-film debut of documentary-trained writer and director Leslie Shearing. Upwardly mobile professional couple Mary and Joe St. John (Heather Smith, Hans Hoffman) enter their seventh year of marriage deeply in love, and each considers the other a best friend. But they're worried that the oomph has gone out of their sex life, so being proactive New Yorkers, they plunge into the world of sexual healing. And since the unexamined life isn't worth living, they're accompanied by a documentary film crew who bear witness to their escalating humiliations at the hands of smarmy therapist Dr. Watson (Douglas Manes), No-nonsense Eastern European urologist Dr. Pfelt (Shearing) and a trio of New Age tantric sex counselors. Mary is more than a little uncomfortable with rhapsodic celebrations of yoni power, but bravely proceeds with the recommended sexual gymnastics. You can see Joe shriveling as Dr. Pfelt compares his manhood to a clogged faucet, but he sticks with the program. And Dr. Watson is so determined to pick at every thread of insecurity that you can't help but think he's trying to undermine their relationship and doing a pretty good job of it. Far from getting their groove back on, Joe and Mary feel worse by the session — "It's just one more thing to feel inadequate about," Mary laments as their mutual fires remain unlit — not to mention increasingly impoverished. Shearing developed the material with members of a New York-based improv troupe called The LabRats, whose ability to inhabit their characters so completely that they achieve the apparent artlessness of real people trying to act naturally makes the film's mockumentary conceit thoroughly convincing. Donna Klimek is terrific as bossy tantric goddess Gehan Brown-Cohen, but Shearing herself is the breakout performer: Her Dr. Pfelt delivers matter-of-fact pronouncements about sexual dysfunction in a flinty Eastern European accent that suggests a lecture in animal husbandry or tractor repair. "Is very private, very respectful," she assures the mortified Mary of the exam room where Mary's about to attempt pleasuring herself while connected to a libido-freezing tangle of medical diagnostic machinery. "Take your time... but don't take too long." This is first-rate comedy of discomfort, so don't sample it with a date unless you're looking for a very queasy evening.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A dark and discomfiting comedy of sexual insecurity, this scruffy mockumentary about a couple's odyssey through sex therapy marks the feature-film debut of documentary-trained writer and director Leslie Shearing. Upwardly mobile professional couple Mary an… (more)

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