ORGIES AND THE MEANING OF LIFE – DVD review

SEX.

Good, I have your attention. Now, let’s talk about “Orgies and the Meaning of Life,” a new release from Cinema Epoch. I won’t waste your time as mine was wasted during this 89-minute independent film. It was not interesting, it was not entertaining, it was not pleasant and it was not creative. It was about that three-letter word above more so than anything. Sure, there’s a little side story mixed in here or there, but really, it’s just a notch or two below soft-core pornography. Of course, that stuff is at least designed to be bad, while this film wanted to be better, but simply wasn’t.

Maybe I’m being too critical. After all, this is a small film from a new director (Brad T. Gottfred) working to get his foot in the door. Thankfully, you’ve got to crawl before you can walk, and after surviving this disaster, my bet is Gottfred will do plenty more crawling. This film is a cluster I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and despite its good intent and unique approach, it is so far away from the bulls eye it didn’t even hit the target.

There is a story it tells, at least in spurts between the sex. Baxter Goode (Gottfred) is another failed twenty-something year old who doesn’t want to conform to the mold society has laid out. Baxter’s father, Jack (Brooks Douglas) had great hopes for his son, but unsurprisingly, Baxter isn’t super interested in being a self-help author that relies on guilt trips from God to sell books. Baxter is his own author, thank you very much. His life’s work and masterpiece? Ahem, a deranged book that features a sex obsessed stick figure pursuing a portal to the so-called “three dimensional world.” As he smurfs his way through this super important project, Baxter has sex with any woman he meets (it always bothers me when guys who have little to nothing going for them manage to have sex with any women they encounter and don’t really have to work so hard at it or deal with any repercussions for their actions), each time envisioning a massive orgy where other women he’s had intercourse with are there, performing interesting sexual favors for his personal entertainment. Baxter cannot perform well sexually unless he sees these images during sex, and he can’t really function in anything else either. He works day-to-day delivering packages, and is clearly irritated by his lesbian roommate Denny (Katherine Carlson), who regularly squawks at him about life, love, his book, the rent, her partner and other random nonsense.

But one day, Baxter sees her from a distance. Success! He’s found “the one,” a woman who can steal his mind away from orgy fantasies and back to just the one-on-one stuff. Allison (Lindsay Lauren Wray) is about as dreamy a woman as you could ask for: tall, blonde, blue/green eyes, generally gorgeous from top to bottom. And, yes, she pities Baxter, just like the other women he fantasizes about daily. The rest is pretty much predictable, as they go through those awkward sexual tension moments that are entirely too perfect to ever happen in real life, eventually falling for each other and being, um, happy together. Oh, did I forget to mention there’s sex in this movie? Yes, sex throughout, with nudity to boot. And, as the film plays, Baxter’s novel is performed between some scenes, so we get to check out the stick figures looking for that hotly desired portal…and having sex with each other. Right. Watching stick figures having intercourse is about as fun as this film gets, which is, unsurprisingly, not fun at all.

If I know my film thinking, Gottfred wanted to use his stick figures as a metaphor to present Baxter’s life predicament. They are his expression method, and provide a creative space he’s never had before. Also, Baxter’s extra anal-retentive father (who more or less brainwashed his son during his youth) is probably supposed to be that overbearing force that inhibits his individual creativity and real personality from succeeding. The sex fantasies? Well, those are ways he can release from all the constraints reality implements on his daily life. Baxter seeks the meaning of life, which is fine and dandy. But he does it with no direction, drive, determination or willingness to actually invest time or energy. If we presented these metaphors with no context, we’d have potential. If we present them in this context, the film is on its way to the gallows.

I didn’t connect with a single character in “Orgies and the Meaning of Life.” Baxter is about as exciting as a rusty nail, and the women around him are all irritable and easy to dislike. The only real bright spot is Allison (Wray), and I’m sorry to say that it’s partly because she’s attractive. She was the one character that I wanted to like because it’s clear she has some inner demons that are bothering her existence. We get to hear a tiny bit about them, but sadly, the film is about Baxter and his attempt to grow, flourish and love. He doesn’t deserve her, and there are a few moments in the film where you can tell, through Allison’s eyes and body language, she knows this. Yet, she likes him. Why? Perhaps she’s just as desperate to be with someone. Alas, another cinematic waste of a beautiful woman. She has an interesting sexual fantasy or two that we hear about, and they aren’t appropriate for me to detail in this writing, so unfortunately, you may have to actually watch the film. Tranquilo, in advance.

You won’t find the meaning of life in this film, and I doubt you’ll discover the meaning of anything. Even if you really like sex, or the things associated with it, you probably won’t enjoy this film. I figured I could at least get a laugh here or there, but none came. This belongs on that shelf loaded with bad movies that you need to experience every so often just so you can remember and appreciate something that’s good. I think this film is like your favorite hot sauce: use it very sparingly, or rarely, at most.

Video:
It’s below average, at its best. The 1.33:1 picture is weak when it needs to be strong, especially with bright and dark colors. Most scenes were shot on location with probably average equipment, and while this is partly to blame, I imagine the filmmakers could have worked just a bit more to better the visuals. Nothing looks that vibrant, and there are few eye-catching camera shots. Even the sex scenes are poorly lit and shot, which may be the final nail in the coffin.

Audio:
It’s worse than the video. I had to jack up the sound many times, then hustle it back down. I don’t know why the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a mess with this film, but it provides little support throughout. The musical selections are okay, but by the time you notice them, you’re so exhausted from a lousy movie that you barely care. No subtitles to be found, which is probably good. There are some lines you may not want to hear or read.

Extras:
All we receive is a still gallery, deleted scenes, director’s statement (it’s more like a plea to endure his film) and other short films Gottfred’s had a hand in. It’s nothing special, simply an accurate reflection of the film at the center. I often comment that independent films need to do more in the extras department, because many are grassroots and possess a unique trait or two. In this case, I’m content where I am.

A Final Word:
I’ll be honest and admit that when this disc arrived I was excited to see the film. I figured it had to be better than the more commercial offerings from bigger studios, right? It couldn’t stoop to that level, could it? Nah, it went several ladder rungs below. “Orgies and the Meaning of Life” tries to mesh a coming of age tale with sexual frustration, religious rebellion, personal struggle and a battle for true love. Instead, it needs some new training wheels and a bib.

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