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Freak Talks About Sex

Ceaselessly hilarious verbiage from rising star Steve Zahn -- as the trash-talking title dude -- and the best work yet from Josh Hamilton, in sensitive-loser mode, make "Freak Talks About Sex" a can't-miss item for disaffected twentysomethings.

With:
Dave - Josh Hamilton Freak - Steve Zahn Nichole - Heather McComb Cari - Arabella Field Big Steve - David Kinney With: Carey Eidel, Wayne Federman, Kim O'Mara, Ted Raimi, Tim Green, Jack Carey, Sybil Temchen, Beth Beer, Max Casella, Sarah Lamb, Delilah Stombs, Lee Garlington, Michael Twaine, Ed Richter, Michael Short.

Ceaselessly hilarious verbiage from rising star Steve Zahn — as the trash-talking title dude — and the best work yet from Josh Hamilton, in sensitive-loser mode, make “Freak Talks About Sex” a can’t-miss item for disaffected twentysomethings. It’s a natural for urban playoff, but small-town setting could resonate in the heartland, too.

The orange-headed Zahn toplines effortlessly as Freak (his real name is never mentioned), a Syracuse stoner who still lives in his parent’s wood-paneled basement, where stereo, lava lamp and ever-filled bong provide all the lifeblood he … uh, what were we talking about? Oh yeah: Freak’s best buddy is slacking champ Dave Keenan (Hamilton), a would-be writer who fled upstate New York for the deserts of Arizona and — surprise, surprise — found nothing there. Now he’s working in a downmarket men’s store at the local mall, where employees are forever puzzled by stoical cashier Big Steve (David Kinney), who has secrets even the most creative scribbler can only guess at. Dave’s successful older brothers, including an unctuous local newscaster (former footballer Tim Green), keep bugging him about his glaring lack of ambition.

Dave has a hankering to leave town again, but he just can’t seem to get any work done on his sputtering car, plus there’s still that tepid thing he has going with an old g.f. (Arabella Field) who keeps trying to get him to visit her in NYC. On top of everything else, his cute co-worker, high-schooler Nichole (the charming Heather McComb), has been coming on to him, in the nicest possible way. For such a passive guy, he sure is facing a lot of life choices all of a sudden.

Mostly, he’s happy to while away his rapidly diminishing boyhood with Freak, who ponders any potentially weighty issues with splendid absurdity. “I can’t think of a single movie,” he typically offers, apropos of nothing, “that couldn’t be improved by a lesbian sex scene.” So far, so funny, but when Dave starts noticing that Freak is overtaking him in the maturity department — what, no cigarettes? — crunch time is inevitable.

This is familiar territory, and not very dynamic by design, but frosh helmer Paul Todisco keeps things fresh and always slightly unsettled, perfectly capturing the last flashes of post-adolescent buddyhood, just before it yields to something like adult behavior. With more talking than sex, there’s a little sag factor inherent, especially in the long stoning segs, and an occasional strain is felt when things turn serious. But Zahn is so inventive and Hamilton is such an amiable foil, most viewers will end up with a lingering contact high. Snappily edited pic looks great, too, and has an appropriately freaky soundtrack.

Popular on Variety

Freak Talks About Sex

Production: A New Sky Communications/Latent Image Entertainment presentation of an Owasco Entertainment production, in association with Centre Street. Produced by Angela Daddabbo, Jimmy Daddabbo. Executive producers, Charles M. LaLoggia, Kyle Scrimgeour, Philipp Weck. Co-producers, Jonathan Shoemaker, Derrick Tseng. Directed by Paul Todisco. Screenplay, Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman, Todisco, based on a novel by Galvin.

With: Dave - Josh Hamilton Freak - Steve Zahn Nichole - Heather McComb Cari - Arabella Field Big Steve - David Kinney With: Carey Eidel, Wayne Federman, Kim O'Mara, Ted Raimi, Tim Green, Jack Carey, Sybil Temchen, Beth Beer, Max Casella, Sarah Lamb, Delilah Stombs, Lee Garlington, Michael Twaine, Ed Richter, Michael Short.Camera (color), Douglas W. Shannon; editor, Hiroshige Ichioka; music, Pete Snell, music supervisor, P.J. Bloom; production designer, Dina Goldman; art director, Lisa Schilling; set decorator, Cristina Garneret; costume designer, Heidi Shulman; sound (Dolby), Jim Corbett, Dan Ferat; assistant director, Jim LaClair casting, Lee Ann Groff. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 4, 1999. Running time: 90 MIN.

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