Imagine the kids of “Beverly Hills, 90210” growing up and heading (a little bit) east, where they’re free to frolic among the clubs and diners of Silver Lake, rebelling against mom and dad’s showy wealth while their trust funds keep them afloat. “Sex, Love & Secrets” has the potential to be a real guilty pleasure — good-looking people dealing with one-night stands, commitment, “careers” and friendship. It’s all very glossy and sharply edited, and Silver Lake has never looked better on film. But knowing the once-happening ‘hood has reached network TV, one wonders if we’re in hipster heaven or hell.
The cast is like Silver Lake’s population 10 years ago — most of the ensemble cast is either in a band or working at a club, except for the one who’s a writer. Hank (James Stevenson) and Coop (Omar Benson Miller) are in the Modern Apes; Hank lives with Rose (Lauren German), the writer, and is contemplating marriage and settling down as a chef.
Coop is the lovable big guy, an African-American who has a platonic relationship with a hot blond, Meg (Nadia Bjorlin), who is in an extended one-night stand with hairdresser/barfly Charlie (Eric Balfour). Ultimately Charlie makes the right decision — friendship before sex. They all appear in control of their lives, odd for a neighborhood known for its slackers.
The “love and secrets” part of the title derives from Rose’s past, when she was intensely in love with Billy (Dylan Bruno). She learns of his death and becomes overly preoccupied, so much so that she ignores Hank as he is plotting a future with her but has no idea why she is behaving coldly.
The device sets him up as vulnerable, and Jolene (Denise Richards) is ready to pounce. Jolene, a publicist, had her heart broken by Billy after he decided he wanted to be with Rose.
Even after Rose casts her past to the wind, Jolene lingers and appears ready to drive a wedge in Rose and Hank’s relationship. Richards, who plays a devilish character with a dark soul, has the most dramatic presence on “Sex, Love”; without her, the show would wither.
On the periphery of these goings-on is neighbor Nina (Tamara Taylor), an OB-GYN whose social/sex life is next to nil. In a bizarre, implausible twist, she meets Milo (Lucas Bryant), a loud goofball looking for a roommate, who finds Nina and her home picture-perfect.
From top to bottom, the cast is good-looking and stylish. Scenes are shot with abundant steaminess to bring out as many erotic qualities as possible in many of the shots. Charlie apparently has an out-of-control magnetism as he bounces from one woman to another; he does particularly well one day in a shower.
David Straiton’s direction, combined with the editing, give “Sex, Love & Secrets” an intimate and racy feel. It pivots off sexual feelings — bright colors, moments passing by in a blur and a pervasive general happiness.