Sometimes movies surprise you. A cliché, I know, but bear with me a moment. Take a look at the DVD cover of How To Make Love To A Woman. Would you pick this up from a shelf filled to the brim with hundreds of other, possibly better films? I mean, the cover has the American Pie lettering and the cast striking and fronting with cheesy expressions that scream “we’re an ensemble cast for a raunchy comedy.” Actor Eugene Byrd in particular gets the worst of it, not only the lone black man on the cover but also saddled with a self-satisfied, too-cool pose.
The secret is that the film inside, written by Dennis Kao and directed by Scott Culver, doesn’t portend to be more than yet another comedy released in the aftermath of the Apatow crew's assault on Hollywood; a comedy that’s equal parts raunchy and romantic. It’s also genuinely funny. Not a gut-buster, but filled out with a cast of talented up-and-comers who are enjoyable to watch, not to mention a few worthy zingers. Overall, what looks like another derivative and superficial slacker-without-prospects-lands-woman-way-above-his-station story finds some heart and skates on by in a breezy 91 minutes.
Andy (Josh Meyers, brother of SNL’s Seth Meyers) is no slacker—he’s a record executive (or some such thing, the film never really delves into his job specifics) on the lookout for the new hot artist. His job leaves him with little time to attend to his long-term girlfriend Lauren (Krysten Ritter, the-go-to actress to play the female lead’s snarky best friend), causing some friction that culminates with Lauren unleashing an earth-shattering disappointed sigh after sex that sends Andy on a question to find out…well, you know the title. Is it a shaky premise? Yes. An excuse for Andy and his confidante Layne (Eugene Byrd, showing enough comedy chops to make up for that DVD cover) to interrogate a variety of women, most of whom neither look nor act like any flesh-and-blood female beyond the silver screen? Yup.
Dennis Kao’s script sticks to formula like a life raft, but he does formula well enough so that it’s at the very least watchable. It’s fast food entertainment but with the added health benefit—a double cheeseburger on a whole wheat bun. You may feel occasionally guilty watching it, but at least it’s a little bit on the healthy side. Kao and Culver make the wise decision to keep bodily humor to an absolute minimum and instead load up on the sex jokes that, while juvenile, are refreshingly free of vulgarity.
Coy and cutesy when it needs to be, How To Make Love To A Woman inevitably transforms from sex-quest comedy to Apatovian drama. Think the last half of Funny People, but much less long-winded or overacted. When Meyers and Ritter face off, its no Kramer vs. Kramer, but the two generate enough stagey tension to make it work. You may have noticed by now that while I am not exactly praising this film, I am also not condemning it.
My better judgment aside, what was it about this flick that made it enjoyable for me? What makes it stand out from a hundred other offerings in the sex comedy genre? The answer’s simple: nothing, but a well-made derivative sex comedy is ahead of the curve in a market that has recently consistently offered up bodily humor and nudity as proof of comedy, without putting any effort into setting up punch lines or even the bare minimum of plot. Call it settling down, but I’ll take a cliché-ridden comedy that takes at least some care to play by the rules over a reliance on a man lighting a fart out of his own ass. For this reason and a number of others, How To Make Love To A Woman comes recommended.
DVD Bonus Features
The special features include 15 minutes worth of interviews with the cast, crew and a collection of bands whose poppy rock music lines the film almost wall-to-wall. Twenty-five minutes of outtakes provides some improv and a variety of scenes that were wisely cut. A 15-minute Making Of is also included which acts as more of a promo for the film than a genuine BTS look. A 3-minute Lindsay Richards music video and the film’s trailer round out the bunch.
"How To Make Love To A Woman" is on sale July 13, 2010 and is rated R. Comedy, Drama. Directed by Scott Culver. Written by Dennis Kao. Starring Eugene Byrd, Ian Somerhalder, Jenna Jameson, Josh Myers, Ken Jeong, Krysten Ritter.