Thursday 31 December 2020

Movie Review: The Sweetest Thing (2002)

A raunchy romantic comedy, The Sweetest Thing follows the misadventures of three party girls as they start to consider growing up.

Christina, Courtney and Jane (Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair) are best friends in their late twenties, sharing an apartment in San Francisco and still enjoying a chaotic life of partying and casual relationships. At a dance club Christina makes a connection with the dishy Peter (Thomas Jane) and also meets his more obnoxious brother Roger (Jason Bateman).

For a few days Christina is unsure whether she should pursue a relationship, but then Courtney insists they drive for three hours to a small town where the brothers are attending a wedding. They meet the uncertain bride Judy (Parker Posey), then a shock awaits.

Offering just the skimpiest of plots, The Sweetest Thing follows in the footsteps of 1998's There's Something About Mary as a lusty sex comedy searching for big laughs wherever bodily fluids and toilets are found. The humour, when it works, is often cringey and hilarious at the same time. Here the three protagonists are all women relishing the girls-just-wanna-have-fun stage, but at 28 years old, BFFs Christina and Courtney are starting to wonder if maybe it's time to settle down.

With all the sexual and romantic fantasies and mishaps presented from the women's perspective, South Park writer Nancy Pimental's script unapologetically celebrates the wild single life. From performing The Penis Song musical number in a Chinese restaurant to cleaning the stain on a dress and venturing to an encounter with a glory hole at a dingy gas station restroom, the three women are enjoying the sexual ups and down of their twenties, owning their experiences, creating memories, and dealing with all the good and bad consequences.

Unfortunately the humour's success rate is less than average, and for every excellent comic scene at least a couple fall flat. With a sparse, essentially plot-free structure, director Roger Kumble has to stretch out several sequences well past the funny point just to arrive at the 90 minute mark (the original theatrical release version is even shorter, but excludes The Penis Song, so it's all about trade-offs). The romantic elements centred on Christina's possible pursuit of Peter are a secondary, almost slapped-on, part of the film.

The three actresses ham it up, Cameron Diaz maybe too aware she is the star attraction and frequently creeping into frantic territory. Christina Applegate and Selma Blair are more understated and mischievously memorable. The three actresses do succeed in creating a sense of genuine close camaraderie and appear to be having a blast on the screen.

The Sweetest Thing is sometimes sweet, but more often sticky and yucky.

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