Early in “Female Pervert,” someone describes a novel as — wink, wink! nudge, nudge! — “sort of fun, like a quirky indie comedy.” That line may be meant as a cue, or perhaps even a plea, to the audience. But it only serves to underscore what a laugh-free zone this self-indulgent trifle really is. At once fleeting and plodding, writer-director Jiyoung Lee’s film focuses on a young Asian-American woman whose social awkwardness and sexual obsessions evidently are intended to be amusing and engaging. Trouble is, they are neither. After a spin through the fest circuit, oblivion awaits.
Phoebe (Jennifer Kim), an attractive videogame designer, finds it difficult to meet Mr. Right, quite possibly because of her eccentric requests — she asks one guy to play her Theremin with his penis, and another to let her clip his pubic hair — early in the dating cycle. It helps little that her clueless therapist is a conspiracy buff and 9/11 truther, and even less that her borderline-predatory tendencies are so creepy that a male co-worker files suit against her.
Here and there, Lee indicates that her aim is ironic table turning, demonstrating how women can objectify men. As “Female Pervert” progresses, however, Phoebe comes across as someone not merely self-absorbed, but increasingly unhinged, not unlike Catherine Deneuve’s psycho protagonist in “Repulsion.” Indeed, by the time a female co-worker asks Phoebe to babysit her little boy, viewers are primed to expect the worst. It actually comes as a relief when she doesn’t take her Theremin out of the closet during playtime.
For what it’s worth, tech values are perfectly respectable.