Relax... It's Just Sex, on the other hand, is a more humble affair that presents seven or eight obvious gay stereotypes--lipstick lesbians, drama queens, muscle boys--and then tries to subvert them one by one with a whole lot of turbulent plotting and endless talk, some of it bitchily amusing but most of it, well, just talk.
As for star power, Relax... gives us the always quirky and watchable Jennifer Tilly as Tara, a motormouth fag hag who would be yet another stereotype if it weren't for the fact that she actually has a boyfriend. Sadly, Gus (Timothy Paul Perez) treats her really badly, but happily, this fact lets the movie make the point that straight relationships can be just as screwed up as gay relationships.
At the center of the gay circle of friends is Vincey (Mitchell Anderson), a sensitive playwright who just wants to fall in love the old-fashioned way. (Fat chance on Santa Monica Boulevard, buddy.) Among his cronies are Dwight and Diego (Gibbs Tolsdorf and Chris Cleveland), both of whom spout Christian dogma; femme lesbian Sarina (Cynda Williams) and her butch girlfriend (Lori Petty); Gus's brother Javi (Eddie Garcia), who is HIV-positive; and his new boyfriend, angry artist Buzz (T.C. Carson).
With so many personalities crowding into Vincey's house or around Tara's dinner table it's hard for anyone to get a word in edgewise except the voluble Tara, who masks her own problems by coming up with an endless stream of clever zingers about sex, penises, the Middle East, and whatever else crosses her mind while Gus sulks in the background. He wants to move away and start a new life elsewhere, but she's reluctant, especially since she wants to get pregnant and also would never want to leave her gaggle of gays.
Everyone else mills around, switches partners occasionally, and talks a lot until some ugly realities in the form of gay bashing, rape, AIDS, and even a miscarriage turn what was shaping up to be a never-ending cocktail party into something darker. The gay-bashing scene, in particular, is stunning. Vincey and Javi suddenly turn the tables on their attackers and let loose with astonishing pent-up rage. It's perhaps the movie's most interesting moment, but the truth is that it probably shouldn't be in this movie given that it's surrounded by even more joke-filled chatter.
Writer/director P.J. Castellaneta has a lot of his mind, and he's crammed it all in to Relax... as if he thinks he'll never have a chance to write another screenplay. The result is a muddle. It's a somewhat interesting muddle, but in this case, a little less might have been much more.
Sex is in the air.
Run time: 110 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 10th June 1998
Distributed by: A-Pix
Production compaines: TLA Releasing
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: P.J. Castellaneta
Screenwriter: P.J. Castellaneta
Starring: Mitchell Anderson as Vincey Sauris, Terrence 'T.C.' Carson as Buzz Wagner (as T.C. Carson), Seymour Cassel as Emile Pillsbury, Serena Scott Thomas as Megan Pillsbury, Jennifer Tilly as Tara Ricotto, Susan Tyrrell as Alicia Pillsbury, Cynda Williams as Sarina Classer, Paul Winfield as Auntie Mahalia, Billy Wirth as Jared Bartoziak, Eddie Garcia as Javi Rogero, Timothy Paul Perez as Gus Rogero, Chris Cleveland as Diego Tellez, Gibbs Tolsdorf as Dwight Bergman, Kathryn Bundy as Marcia Fu, Lori Petty as Robin Moon
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