J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Slamdance ’16: How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town

What else are you going to do in a quaint little Canadian burg that still only has dial-up? Watch hockey or read Anne of Green Gables? Actually, the good townsfolk of Beaver’s Ridge are more partial to the virtuous YA novels of local luminary Maureen Cranston. Make that the late Maureen Cranston. Her black sheep sex columnist daughter has returned for her funeral, getting an even more awkward reception than expected in Jeremy Lalonde’s How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival.

Back in the waning days of high school, Cassie Cranston decided to seal the deal with her boyfriend Adam Mitchell during a party. However, he wasn’t quite ready. Through an unfortunate chain of events, Cranston was forced to do a near naked walk of shame through town, while Mitchell curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. That was kind of it for Cranston and Beaver Ridge. She moved to the big city and unloaded on the town’s prudery in her first Carrie Bradshaw-esque column. They still remember that one.

In fact, the town’s paragon of Puritanism, Heather Mitchell, Adam’s wife and Cranston’s old nemesis, sort of over-compensates. She tries to enlist Cranston’s help organizing an old fashioned Marin-county orgy. Cranston is incredulous and slightly appalled, but she agrees anyway. She happens to be in a bit of a fix. She is due to deliver her book to her publisher, but she hasn’t written a word. Honestly, she is a bit of a fraud. Despite some research in sex clubs and what have you, Cranston is still technically a virgin. If nothing else, a Beaver Ridge orgy should be good material.

Of course, there are about half a dozen colorful characters who agree to participate in the swinging bash for their own reasons, including her trampy bestie Alice Solomon, Solomon’s ED-afflicted ex, Bruce Buck, his suave new realty partner Spencer Goode, and the ill-matched Mitchells. Some look good in various states of undress, others not so much. Generally, the on-screen action is mostly somewhat frank rom-com stuff, but that title is not metaphorical.

Plan is generally amusing, but it is nowhere near as clever as last year’s Canadian underdog, Big News from Grand Rock. Stargate: Atlantis’s Jewel Staite is an engaging screen presence, who finds just the right attitude for Cranston. Katharine Isabelle certainly will not jeopardize her growing cult popularity with her vampy work as Solomon and Lauren Lee Smith is rather spectacularly prim and shrewish as Heather Mitchell. However, Ennis Esmer, who was terrific in Grand Rock, underwhelms as her doormat-like husband. Likewise, the realtors and the other assorted orgiers are not so subtly drawn or nuanced.

Go broad and slightly naughty was clearly Lalonde’s strategy. In general, it works okay and he earns bonus points for not chickening out down the stretch, but it doesn’t have much staying power, so to speak. For those who are looking for something easy with no emotional entanglements, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town screens again this Wednesday (1/27), as part of this year’s Slamdance in Park City.

Labels: , , ,