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A romantic comedy about sex, love, fetish and relationships as told through the lives and desires of five ordinary couples

Review by Louise Keller:
Whatever Turns You On could be an alternative title for this unexpected, quirky and black patchwork of a film whose juxtaposition of sexual fetishes between seemingly ordinary couples in a suburban neighbourhood will make you sit up and take notice. Overcooked at times and not always cohesive, Josh Lawson's debut feature about intimacy is a case of hit or miss, but in its favour, there are some very funny ideas coupled with some priceless moments.

The film begins with Lawson's soft pink tongue and mouth wrapping itself around Bojana Novakovic's toes - as foreplay. This proves to be the most 'normal' act of desire that we witness. We become voyeurs as we enter the bedrooms and homes of five couples as their secret desires are revealed. Added to the mix is a convicted sexual offender (Kim Gyngell, hilarious), who roams the neighbourhood with gifts of home-baked gollywogs and a creepy expression. The only character who is upfront about her fantasies is Maeve (Novakovic), who confesses to partner Paul (Lawson) of her dream to be raped. The fact that Paul thinks she is asking to be rated (he tells her she is a 10) is very funny. Novakovic has a lovely screen presence and Maeve learns the lesson about being mindful about her wishes.

The story strand involving Kate Mulvany and Damon Herriman is initially amusing as their role playing attempts (as suggested by their marriage therapist) alert Dan to his passion for acting. It all wears a little thin as the skits become repetitive. I love the idea behind Phil and Maureen's woes (as played by Alan Dukes and Lisa McCune) - he loves her when she is asleep when she is no longer the cold, snappy wife that time has made her. The anaesthetizing sleeping pills from Thailand come in handy.

Tears are the spark for Rowena (Kate Box); the mechanical and clinical relationship between her and her husband Richard (Patrick Brammall) as they desperately try to have a baby becomes raunchy as she goes to outrageous attempts to make her husband cry. My favourite segment is the one in which Erin James works as a translator for the deaf through a video link and is asked to call a raunchy sex hotline by TJ Power. The jaded sex worker is wonderful; the chemistry between James and Power palpable. Nothing is lost in translation and this story strand is ultra fresh.

While Lawson's concept pushes the envelope and the ideas are mostly fun, The Little Death falls short of its promise with the sum of its part funnier than the whole. The ideas are funnier than the execution. But it's an innocent slippery dip and fun while it lasts. (The film's title is explained up front with a title card that states that it is a translation for the French phrase 'La Petite Mort', being an idiom and euphemism for an orgasm.)

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(Aust, 2014)

CAST: Josh Lawson, Bojana Novakic, Damon Herriman, Kate Mulvany, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall, Alan Dukes, Lisa McCune, Erin James, TJ Power, Kim Gyngell, Lachy Hulme

PRODUCER: Jamie Hilton, Michael Petroni, Matt Reeder

DIRECTOR: Josh Lawson

SCRIPT: Josh Lawson


EDITOR: Christian Gazal

MUSIC: Michael Yezerski


RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 25, 2014

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