“La petite mort,” the French call it — “the little death.” What a colorful and delicate way to describe an orgasm.
But “delicate” isn’t the first word that leaps to mind with the Australian sex comedy that takes its name from that turn of phrase. “The Little Death” is a broad, goofy primer on the not-quite-cutting-edge of consensual adult sexuality. The five inter-connected couples and their assorted fantasies, fetishes and hangups only generate the odd laugh — often at how quaint this material can seem in The Age of Caitlyn Jenner.
Dan and Evie (Damon Herriman and Kate Mulvany) are in counseling, where they’re directed to try a little role playing. That turns into “role fetishism” as Dan takes the “acting” part a little more seriously — costumes, lighting, direction.
Rowena and Richard (Kate Box, Patrick Brammall) are trying to get pregnant. How do you keep the love-making fresh and fun when “How’s your cervical mucus?” counts as pillow talk?
Paul (writer-director Josh Lawson) tries to get his head around significant other Maeve’s “rape fantasy,” in an politically incorrect bit on “sexual masochism.”
“Somnophilia” (sexual arousal at the sight of someone sleeping) is comically taken to its extreme.
Some segments generate a chuckle, and some are comically cringe-worthy, such as the running gag about the new neighbor (Kim Gyngell) who in introduces himself to each couple, in turn, with cookies today regarded as racially offensive in Australia. The nostalgia those generate, and the self-involvement of each couple, means that nobody hears him say he’s required, by law, to tell them he’s a sexual offender.
The one bit to truly work is also the warmest, as a video interpreter/operator for the deaf (Erin James) finds herself called on to mediate a call to a phone sex operator by a lonely young deaf man.
The whole adds up to a movie that generally falls between never quite titillating and titters, which fall somewhat below giggles on the laughter scale.
Cast: Bojana Novakovic, Kate Mulvany, Josh Lawson, Damon Herriman, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall, Alan Dukes, Lisa McCune
Credits: Written and directed by Josh Lawson. A Magnolia release.
Running time: 1:36