An offbeat sex comedy with serious moral overtones, “Bound and Gagged” marks a respectable feature debut for writer-helmer Daniel Appleby. The target auds for this farce are gays, but the broader issues of sexual identity and the freedom to determine one’s lifestyle create some crossover potential, given proper marketing.
Three disparate characters form the bizarre triangle of this black comedy. Cliff (Christopher Denton) is a passive man, deeply depressed over the breakup of his marriage. His best friend, the bisexual Elizabeth (Elizabeth Saltarrelli) , attempts to cheer him up and rescue him from his suicidal behavior by taking him on the road along with her lover Leslie (Ginger Lynn Allen), an attractive blonde trapped in a bad marriage.
It is one of the film’s ironic jokes that both Cliff and Leslie are forced to go on the road. Leslie is actually kidnapped from her own home by Elizabeth, who claims she knows what’s good for her friend. Believing that Leslie has been brainwashed by her macho-pig husband Steve (Chris Mulkey), Elizabeth takes her to Carla (Karen Black), a professional “deprogrammer.”
Once on the road, Cliff attempts a number of suicides, some funnier than others, and Leslie tries to escape back to her abusive husband. Of course, of the three “problematic” characters, it’s really the obsessive, punky Elizabeth who is in desperate need of lessons in maturity, responsibility and sensitivity.
In structure, “Bound and Gagged” approximates classical farce. No matter what the characters do, they are bound to cause mishaps because they are obsessed by their own desperate needs. In execution, however, both writing and direction suffer from the lack of crazy energy and relentless logic, without which satires become square and repetitious.
As helmer, Appleby doesn’t find the right flow for his potentially hilarious situations, which are directed at a deliberate and unvarying pace. The narrative grows progressively monotonous and moralistic, burdened at the end with too many life lessons made explicit.
Though none of the actors really possess the light, polished technique necessary for effective farce, each has his or her good moments. A strong screen presence, Saltarrelli credibly renders the extravagant, spunky woman bent on securing her lover at all costs, be they moral or immoral.
Tech credits are proficient, particularly Dean Lent’s handsome cinematography and William Murphy’s bouncy music, which often gives the film some helpful zest.