Tuesday 23 September 2014

Film Review: The Little Death

Taboo. It's what Josh Lawson's new movie, The Little Death, aims to touch on and break down. More specifically, taboos surrounding sex, fetishism, love and relationships. Through exploring the lives of multiple couples, this light-hearted Australian comedy will make you laugh, cry and cringe all the way to its hilarious climax - yes, pun intended.

After receiving its international premiere at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, The Little Death opens on domestic shores this week - written and directed by Australian comedian Josh Lawson (TV's House of Lies, Anchorman 2, Any Questions for Ben?), it's a hilarious blend of humour, heartfelt drama and scandal.

As I've said, the film weaves together a patchwork of different stories from a series of couples who all live in suburban Sydney - a mixture of Neighbours and Love Actually if you will. For the most part, the film works really well. And yet, as is common with an approach such as this, there are some stories that hit the (g)spot, whilst others feel rather flaccid in places.

For example, Paul and Maeve (Lawson and Bojana Novakovic) are equal parts hilarious and moving as they wrangle with the latter's fetish for domination and rape, whilst Dan (Damon Herriman) and Evie (Kate Mulvany) are playing around with role play. These stories work for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because they toe the line of what is acceptable - and with a tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Dan and Evie's increasingly wacky set-ups and costumes provide some of the films most consistent and hearty laughs, but don't be mistaken for thinking any of these segments are simply thrown together for the purpose of making us laugh. They are each underlined with thought-out commentary on coping with sex, adulthood and relationships in a way that stays with you well after the credits have rolled.

The segment I thought didn't work was that of Phil (Alan Dukes) and Maureen (Lisa McCune). Dukes plays a dishevelled office worker who gets off on seeing his snide and nagging wife sleeping. This then leads into all sorts of shenanigans involving sleeping pills and so on - it's light-hearted stuff, but I just ended up feeling bad that their story was never resolved in a satisfying way.

That being said, Lawson saves the best till last in the form of Monica (Erin James) and Sam (TJ Power), ensuring the audience leave the theatre with a big smile plastered across their face in the process. James plays a switchboard operator at a video relay service, acting as a go-between for deaf-mute Sam and a phone sex line.

It's a barmy premise that is executed wonderfully, with James and Power making an adorably cute onscreen couple. This final segment reminds us that whilst the various plotlines are little more than tasty vignette's, they're still loaded with the a devilishly sharp wit and touching sentiment nonetheless.

Lawson's writing and direction is great, and the raft of Aussie talent amongst the cast makes this movie one of the best Australian comedies for a long time. Definitely worth checking out!

The Verdict: 8/10

Cute, cheeky and concerned with all things carnal, The Little Death showcases Lawson's depth of talent for both sharp writing and delicate direction. The ensemble cast will have you clutching your sides and squirming in your seat as they fumble their way through an A-Z of sauce and scandal.

The Little Death
opens in cinemas across Australia this Thursday. Check out an exclusive clip from the film below.

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