Better than Sex Review
Josh (David Wenham) and Cin (Susie Porter) meet at a party and spend the night together. She’s a dress designer, he’s a wildlife photographer and he’s due to fly to London in three days. At first it’s just sex, with no complications, and they won’t see each other again. So what can go wrong? But when one night becomes two, they wonder if it’s as simple as that…
Better than Sex is an engaging if slight romantic comedy. It’s certainly predictable, but that’s in the nature of the genre: it’s not the end that counts, it’s how they get there. Basically a two-hander, the film uses voice-overs and addresses to camera by both leads, as well as comments by his and her friends. On the way, we get discussions on such matters as: noises women make during orgasm, why men can’t flush toilets or put the seat down, the whys and wherefores of oral sex, and why women take so long to get ready to go out. The sex scenes are unembarrassed and candid, with both Wenham and Porter seen nude, though first-time director Teplitzky doesn’t show us any full-frontals. Better than Sex is less explicit and less emotionally raw than the superficially similar Praise. (Which presumably makes the difference between this film’s MA rating and the R given to Praise. Neither film has been released in the UK, but it’s a safe bet both would be given an 18 certificate by the BBFC.) Unfortunately that makes it less memorable too.
A lot depends on the two lead actors, and they are up to the task, conveying a lot via facial expression. There are solid supporting performances from Kris McQuade as an all-seeing all-knowing taxi driver and Catherine McClements as Cin’s friend Sam, who is eager to see this new man in Cin’s life and “flirts her arse off” as the dialogue puts it. Better than Sex is nicely made, though a little protacted in the middle section, despite the short running time. It’s entertaining but ultimately rather too minor-key to make a lasting impression.
Siren’s DVD packaging is inaccurate in several respects. First of all, this disc is region-free, not Region 4 as the cover claims. Secondly, the cover also says “Fullscreen presentation – NO BLACK BARS TOP OR BOTTOM ON YOUR TV” as if that’s something to be proud of. But it’s wrong. This DVD is non-anamorphic for sure, but it’s letterboxed to a ratio of 16:9, complete with the black bars that are allegedly not there. By eye, I’d estimate that 1.85:1 is the intended cinema ratio. As for the transfer itself, it’s very nicely done, with little wrong with it: the colours are natural and solid, and there’s sufficient shadow detail in the night scenes. The only nitpick are a couple of places where there are duplicate frames, causing a brief but noticeable jump. (Watch the scene where Cin pulls Josh’s underpants down.)
The soundtrack is Dolby Surround. Being very much a dialogue-led film, this mix isn’t one to show off your system with. The rear channels are mostly used for music, though there’s a show-offy effect 70 minutes in, when you hear surround-sound orgasmic noises. There are sixteen chapter stops and no subtitles.
The extras Siren have put together are nice to have but skimp on basic information. There’s no trailer, nor any biographies of the cast or director. What we do have are two interviews with Susie Porter. Their Internet origin would lead you to expect text interviews, but these are video clips instead. The first and longest comes from Urban Cinefile. Taking a leaf out of the late Paula Yates’s book, Andrew L. Urban and Porter conduct the interview in bed. Urban seems a little self-conscious as a result, and the interview, while friendly, doesn’t go very deep. This interview is full-frame and runs 9:25. The second interview comes from Scape, is in non-anamorphic 16:9 and runs 4:42. Porter answers questions from an unseen interviewer. The remaining extra is a promo video for “Open all Night” by You am I, which includes extracts from the film. It runs 4:02 and is in 16:9 shifted upwards slightly.
The film is worthwhile, though lightweight: it’ll be interesting to see what Teplitzky will do for his next film. This DVD edition is similarly slight.