Friday, Sepember 3, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 10

Cougar Comics Online
Superstar Walker is what doctor ordered

Movie Review:
Chill Factor


About the Cougar

Relax ... It's Just Sex a well-written, moving film 

By Andrew Sandoval
Daily Cougar Staff 

Relax ... It's Just Sex

Jennifer Tilly, Mitchell Anderson, Cynda Williams, Lori Petty
Running time: 110
Rated: R

Grade: B

Although the opening gay-sex scene in Relax ... It's Just Sex is shocking, it is not gratuitous. That attitude permeates the film as director and writer P.J. Castellaneta makes serious comments about straight, gay and lesbian relationships without preaching or making the movie take itself too seriously.

The movie is a look at friends with different lifestyles who experience, and try to make sense of, life in the '90s. They sometimes speak very cynically about life and its bad experiences, including infidelity, AIDS and the search for a fulfilling life.

The first half of Relax delivers some humorous jokes in which the punch lines are frequently related to the characters' sexuality. In one scene, Megan (Serena Scott-Thomas) and Sarina (Cynda Williams), a lesbian couple, have an argument. "We haven't have good sex since Martina won Wimbledon," Megan says. The humor is crude, but effective. 

The second half of the film becomes more serious, and the characters find support in friendships to help them overcome their difficulties.

The frustration and anger of Vincey (Mitchell Anderson), a gay character, is something many people can relate to. Vincey constantly complains about how he is not able to find a meaningful relationship. He can sometimes be annoying and is not necessarily a likable person. 

Chris Cleveland, left, and Gibbs Toldsorf staf in P.J. Castellaneta's new film Relax . . . It's Just Sex.

Phil Tarley/Jour De Fete Films

But after Vincey's story is revealed, he becomes a real person and not just a stereotype. His rage has an explanation, and once that's shown, it is easier to understand where he's coming from. Vincey ultimately uses his writing as a way of working out his problems. 

Like Vincey, some of the other characters initially seem like caricatures, but they suddenly become real people. Without a doubt, Jennifer Tilly steals the show as Tara Ricotto. Tara is funny, smart and a surrogate mother to her friends.

Vincey, Robin (Lori Petty) and Javi (Eddie Garcia) depend on Tara for support and advice. She finds pleasure in keeping the group together and telling people to shut up when she thinks it necessary. Tara has a habit of speaking her mind, saying things to her husband Gus (Timothy Paul Perez) like, "All I ask from you is your honesty and your sperm."

The film is sprinkled with memorable scenes, like the one in which Megan pathetically tries to win back the love of her ex-girlfriend Sarina. The moment is touching, but funny at the same time. Another entertaining shot is when Javi tells everyone that he is HIV-positive and Buzz Wagner (Terrence T.C. Carson) argues that AIDS does not really exist.

Overall, Relax is well-written and -acted. It deals with serious topics in a casual way, and everyone can take something away from it. Some scenes are not pleasant, but this film is true to life and has a moving ending.

Castellaneta does a good job presenting different points of view and leaving enough room for the audience to make its own conclusions.

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