This weeekend I went to see John Cameron Mitchell’s “Shortbus”. At its most visually didactic, the movie is about the sexploration that a group of thirty-something undergo. The sex scenes are natural and raw, and to their credit, the realistic depiction grants the actors the right to bypass trite facial expressions that are the sole indicators of intercourse in most movies. At its more metaphoric realm, the movie is a post 9-11 catharsis for New Yorkers, their big official exhale. The guard has been let down, and sexual freedom reigns supreme. Yet it is not merely the freedom to explore, but the freedom to be confused. The movie opens with three different orgasm scenes, normally reserved for a more advanced point in a movie for their symbolic value of goal-attainment. The reversal of their location in the film hints at the movie’s subversive role in its content and message. Additionally, the movie reveals itself as unpreoccupied with the sex, but rather the behind-the-scenes workings, both mental and physical. And despite their ad nauseam-discussed graphic depictions, the sexual acts are anything but arousing, clearly delineating the parameters which distinguish them from pornography.
At its worst, the movie’s right to release could be seen as self-congratulatory as opposed to celebratory. The characters at times appear to tease us with a soon-to-be-gained insight which is not always resolved. Also, the end–while beautiful and heart-warming–feels somewhat rushed and sugar-coated. The symbolism is rife but not always necessary. However, at its best, the movie is a touching and candid peek at ourselves, a salute to the confused and the lonely, and one of the most wonderfully quixotic mental escapades in the past cinematic year.