Julie Davis, Nick Chinlund

"Amy's Orgasm" makes good on the promise Julie Davis showed in her tyro feature "I Love You, Don't Touch Me." If handled properly, this accessible, spirited, romantic comedy could help update the vernacular, much as "The Vagina Monologues" has done.

“Amy’s Orgasm” makes good on the promise Julie Davis showed in her tyro feature “I Love You, Don’t Touch Me.” Davis’ candid, archly funny and deeply authentic take on intimate relationships comes to fruition in her sophomore effort, which won the audience award at Santa Barbara. Now all it needs is a courageous distributor willing to give it the backing (and platform release) it fully deserves. If handled properly, this accessible, spirited, romantic comedy could help update the vernacular, much as “The Vagina Monologues” has done.

Proving that a strong title can open doors as well as raise eyebrows, demand to see “Amy’s Orgasm” at Santa Barbara was overwhelming. And while its title may strike some as off-color, there is nothing unseemly about the film itself.

Replete with wry observations about relationships and articulate inner monologues, Davis’ first feature invited legitimate comparisons to the midcareer work of Woody Allen. Like her first film, new item hinges on a twentysomething heroine, Amy (Davis), who’s been burned by love and hesitates to re-enter the dating scene. Whereas the protagonist of “Don’t Touch Me” was a virgin, Amy may as well be: It’s been four years since her last relationship.

A successful author of self-help books, Amy is busily promoting her latest tome, “Why Love Doesn’t Work.” A version of “The Rules” for resolute singles, her book tells women they don’t need men to feel complete. But after one night too many at home with her vibrator, Amy begins to suspect she’s a fraud. Perhaps she might want a man after all.

Feeling conflicted and guilty but unwilling to try therapy, Amy, who’s Jewish, goes to Catholic confession, where she finds a sympathetic priest (Jeff Cesario), who’s conflicted himself. To great comedic effect, Davis uses the confession scenes as a recurring motif, spilling out her innermost fantasies and thoughts.

Prompted by her overbearing publicist, Janet (a superb Caroline Aaron), Amy appears as the guest of radio shock jock Matthew Starr (Nick Chinlund). Though the Howard Stern-like Starr is everything she’s told women to stay away from, Amy can’t help but feel drawn to him. With Chinlund finding unexpectedly rich nuances in Matthew’s character, their courtship plays out like a delicate dance.

Penultimate scene is key but not entirely credible.

Pic is structurally divided by animated intertitles — the chapter headings from Amy’s book. While amusing in concept, they feel superfluous. Much more effective, and affecting, are the film’s astute observations about men, women and sex, imparted through characters and scenes in smart, snappy exchanges that ring quite true.

There’s also a delicious, well-selected musical track that helps to emphasize ideas and move the story forward.

Amy's Orgasm

Production

A Serious Dan/Without a Box production. Produced by Julie Davis, Fred Kramer. Executive producers, Scott Mandell, David Straus. Co-executive producer, Kip Rabin. Directed, written, edited by Julie Davis.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color), Mark Mervis; supervising editor, Glenn Garland; music supervisor, Jonathan Weiss; production designer, Carol Strober; costume designer, Robert Constant; sound (Dolby), Lee Hovell; associate producer, Robbin Renee Wood; casting, Nancy Naynor. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, March 8, 2001. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Amy - Julie Davis Matthew Starr - Nick Chinlund Priest - Jeff Cesario Don - Mitchell Whitfield Elizabeth - Jennifer Bransford Janet - Caroline Aaron Mike - Mark Brown

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