Writer-director Howard Cushnir shrewdly creates two neglected people who, caught at the apex of their loneliness, find a momentary solution to their problems. A candid “Brief Encounter” via Ma Bell, vidpic deals with phone sex and its implications; frank without being crude, “Sexual Healing” tells its humane story with dispatch.
David (Anthony Edwards), chilled by the rejection from his girl (Mare Winningham), stewing over his self-perceived inadequacies, answers a phone ad and finds it silly. But he has to make a connection, and Renee (Helen Hunt), who’s married, innocent and ignored, daringly dials David’s number.
Renee’s been getting the cold shoulder from hubby Frank (Jason Alexander), who’s either indifferent or away at work, and she finds David’s phone personality attractive. He feels likewise, and as they get to know each other, both become intimate through verbal seduction.
After exchanging photos, they find they’re even more attracted, while husband Frank, noticing Renee’s lighter manner, takes an interest in her again. Cushnir pushes his luck with a coincidental elevator ride, but the ending brings the short vidpic back into order — and maybe Renee and David will be content with their lives.
What might have been a sordid study of two people involved in spoken sex has been intelligently handled as the principals become more and more involved on the phone. Cushnir uses a firm, assured directorial manner that’s effective without being vulgar.
Edwards gives a surefire perf as vulnerable David; Hunt builds Renee’s confidence as a complete woman, and Jason Alexander’s obtuse Frank fits the bill.
John Newby’s perceptive camerawork, Folmer Weisinger’s intelligent editing are buoyed up by Leonard Marcel’s contemporary score. Designer Amy Ancona’s wise selection of backgrounds and L.A. locales builds the sympathetic story’s reality.
Production services for “Sexual Healing” were donated or provided at cost by everyone concerned; as part of its licensing agreement, Showtime is donating $ 25,000 to the Minority AIDS Project.