If you’re tired of searching for “The One,” maybe you should change your approach and be content with “The Many.”
That’s the decision Veronica has come to in Lust, Life, Love. Openly bisexual, guiltlessly polyamorous, she spends her nights at organized orgies, and her days blogging about her various adventures.
Mr. Right? Ms. Right? All Veronica’s interested in is Right Now.
She’s certainly a unique character in modern American movies, which lately seem terrified of sex. And that’s one thing Lust, Life, Love is not afraid of. Not only is its star (and writer, and co-director) Stephanie Sellars often completely nude, so are most of her co-stars. (Even if, frankly, you wish some of them would occasionally cover up a bit.)
It’s definitely a change in this prudish age, although at its heart, Lust, Life, Love isn’t as unconventional as it might think it is. Its kinks are pretty vanilla (it’s cool with lesbianism, but the film’s one BDSM scene, and a single boy-on-boy adventure, are abruptly curtailed). The sex is soft focus, and never very graphic.
And its ultimate observation is pretty old-fashioned, too: If you really love someone, you’re not going to want to see them with someone else.
That’s something Veronica doesn’t want to admit at first. She’s a free spirit, flitting from sex parties to three-way get-togethers, and then blogging about it blearily the next morning. But then she meets Daniel, a slightly awkward newbie in this world. And she finds herself needing him, and his undivided attention, in a way she never did before.
Lust, Live, Love is very much Sellars’ show. She briefly wrote the column “Lust Life” for the old New York Press — back when there were alternative weeklies and each one was trying to copy the New York Observer’s success with Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and the City” series. Sellars’ columns mimicked Bushnell’s, but bent the boundaries.
Bent, but didn’t break. Like Bushnell’s work, Sellars’ script is full of self-absorbed narration, and her character radiates preppy privilege (she comes across like a randy Katharine Hepburn). It’s painfully clear her character has a rich daddy and a sturdy support system (blogging sure didn’t pay for those cute clothes and Manhattan apartment).
It’s all nicely staged, and solidly acted, but compared to a truly risky film, like John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, Lust, Life Love is rather tame.
Still Mitchell’s film was more than 15 years ago, and in these PG-13 days, sex on screen mostly consists of costumed superheroes exchanging glances. So it’s nice to have a film that acknowledges the messy physicality of romance. It’s great to have a diverse and unconventional cast, too, including Jake Choi as Veronica’s heartthrob, and Makeda Declet as the person who both connects them, and comes between them.
And it is refreshing to have a heroine who, frankly, isn’t sure what she wants. But is determined to go out and get it anyway.