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'Fourplay' review: Don't look, don't touch, don't anything

* (out of four)

On the poster for “Fourplay,” R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe calls the sexual awakening anthology “puritanical America’s wake-up call ... it's hot, it's sexy, it’s real.”

There’s no denying part of the country's discomfort about sexual issues, despite the prevalence of sexuality in the mainstream. Yet the above quote might register more convincingly were Stipe not an executive producer of this four-part, 76-minute disaster, which sadly co-stars a few Chicagoans and is directed by Northwestern film professor Kyle Henry.

Setting various horribly written stories in major cities including Austin, Tampa, San Francisco and that major Chicago-area city Skokie (really), “Fourplay” begins with the local tale, for which Skokie should finalize its lawsuit ASAP. In that part a woman dog-sits for the woman she likes in the church choir; what happens aims for daring but is instead embarrassing and absurd. “Austin” left me wondering if am supposed to think a couple would enjoy conceiving a child in the back room of an adult video store, and “Tampa” uses the thin hook of a gay man's shyness as an excuse to depict a mini-gay porn of masturbation fantasies and a—if you get the idea already, stop reading now—tidal wave of (presumably fake) semen.

Only “San Francisco” actually has a degree of emotional involvement, even if it blends “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” with “The Sessions.” In it, a transvestite prostitute arrives to work with a man who can only communicate by blinking.

At no point does “Fourplay” provide a sense of place for its various locations or much sense of the accepted practices these behaviors defy.

It's easy to shout about the need for a wake-up call, and I'm all for open-minded discussions of complicated desires and other touchy subjects. I'm not sure the debate about the functions of a dog's tongue and a person's big toe, however, is in desperate need of a counterpoint.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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