Easier with Practice

Breaking Glass Pictures,

Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Based on the story
by Davy Rothbart

Brian Geraghty,
Kel O'Neill,
Marguerite Moreau,
Jeanette Brox,
Kathryn Aselton,
Jenna Gavigan,
Eugene Byrd

Rated NC-17,
100 minutes

An Unconventional Connection
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online September, 2010

Easier with Practice is not really a gay movie but it does include an intriguing queer twist. This presents a special challenge when it comes to reviewing this film because the very reason for its inclusion on would be a spoiler of the first order. Luckily the main storyline can be discussed without disclosing the secret subplot..

This impressive debut from writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez is based on a true story, originally published in GQ, by Davy Rothbart. Can hot anonymous phone sex lead to a meaningful relationship? Brian Geraghty (The Hurt Locker) stars as Davy Mitchell, a shy writer in his late twenties. Davy, and his brother Sean (Kel O'Neill), are on a road trip together to promote his collection of short stories. One night, while his brother is out and he is alone in their motel room, Davy receives a random phone call from a mysterious woman named Nicole (voiced by Katie Aselton). Davy is startled, and a bit confused, when Nicole asks him what he is wearing and then begins to initiate phone sex. "If you don't want it," she purrs, "All you have to do is hang up." He doesn't.

The phone sex that follows is a lengthy scene, caught in one very long unbroken camera take lasting almost ten minutes. It is, in turns, sexy, funny, and even a little unsettling. It is a powerful and erotic scene that pushes a lot of envelopes. Before long, Davy has an erection and Nicole brings him to climax. Shot from the waist up, the movements of Davy's arm suggest what his hand is doing outside the frame. It is the best sex Davy has ever had.

Soon afterwards, there is a key scene where a young woman, who attended one of Davy's readings, strikes up a conversation with the author in a bar. When she asks if his work is autobiographical, he insists that he is a writer who writes about other people and not about himself. (His book is tellingly titled Things People Do To Each Other.) She is clearly interested in him sexually and it seems for a moment like he might respond to her - and then his cellphone rings. It is Nicole and, for the first of many times to come, he breaks off contact with a real person to talk to his phone fantasy.

Davy has never had much luck with women. Now he thinks he has found his soulmate. Nicole has a boyfriend and refuses to give out her phone number. "I'll call you," she says. And she does. Every night Davy's cellphone rings and they bring each other to orgasm. They also bond on more emotional levels. Davy doesn't tell his brother about the phone calls at first. When Sean finds out, he teases his brother mercilessly. There is a bit of sibling rivalry between them and when Davy rejects the female fan in favor of the phone, Sean picks her up instead and takes her back to their motel room. Davy sleeps in the station wagon and then continues doing that so he can be alone when Nicole calls. Davy thinks he's in love. Nicole says they cannot meet but continues to call - often at the wrong times with comic results. She is a great diversion while they are on the road but, back home, Davy screws up a real date with an old girl friend because (even though he tries) he can't choose between her and a voice on the telephone.

Easier With Practice explores the nature of relationships, albeit a few unconventional ones. Davy is one of those people for whom fantasy becomes more important than interactions with flesh and blood. It is a given that many people will say things to a stranger on the phone, or in an online chatrooom, that they would never say in person. Still, Davy is man who seriously needs to get a life. Sex as character development can be a valid vehicle for drama. I was reminded, in some ways, of another audacious film debut: Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies And Videotape.

There are many ways this story could proceed. Viewers wouldn't be blamed for thinking that Nicole might be a dangerous damsel ala Play Misty For Me or Fatal Attraction. Easier With Practice is certainly not your grandparents' love story. Our lovers do not "meet cute" in typical romance fashion; they can't touch, they don't know what the other looks like. (Sean reminds Davy that, for all he knows, Nicole could be old or overweight.) A very unconventional connection. Do they ever meet in person? We're getting into areas I can't talk about without giving away the ending.

Some might dismiss the film as smut. Well, if it is, it's well written smut. One of the reasons that the long phone sex scene works as well as it does is because the director doesn't forget to inject a lot of humor. It also helps that Davy is more of a dork than a stud. When he first begins to "talk dirty" too, he meekly says that he is touching his "privates." A couple minutes later his talk is so graphic that the Marquis de Sade would blush. Words apparently can be more dangerous than images to some people because the film is rated NC-17 despite the absence of any physical sex or nudity. Gotta love the MPAA.

In closing, Easier With Practice is a satisfying first film. It is erotic and also a little creepy. Alvarez is an openly gay director and the queer aspect to this tale is handled with taste; the same subject might have been approached in a much more juvenile manner by a straight filmmaker. It is possible that gay audiences, knowing that there is something queer about this film, might guess the ending. But even if they do, the journey is a pleasing one.