Movie Review: Shortbus - Far More Than Steaming Sex

You probably need to have lived in a cave since 2006, when the film Shortbus was made, to not know about this stunning work of art. Or, maybe you are on the younger side and have not been exposed to this bit of intensely creative film making. If you are unfamiliar, this review is for you. Those of us who know Shortbus, it is worth remembering anyway, for its groundbreaking way of normalizing sex and sexuality as well as for the intimate personal portraits it pains of its characters.

Shortbus begins and ends with sex. It is, after all, a feature length film with a story line that is all about sex. It opens with sex and ends with sex. And, there is a lot of hot sex in between, gay sex, straight sex, 3-way sex, large orgies, dildos and more. And, because the film's story is all about sex, award winning director, John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) decided to put the sex front and center and to film the actors engaged in actual sex, rather than to simulate it for the camera. I didn't know any of that when I rented it back when it first came out on DVD via Netflix back in 2006. The film was full of many surprises for me.

The first surprise was when the opening credits started with "James" (played by Paul Dawson) naked in the bath tub, not just full-frontal, but including close up cock shots.

But the opening of the credits were just the beginning. By the end of the opening credits, a whole montage of sex scenes featuring various characters from the film - including explicit cum shots - was completed. The character James had gotten out of the tub and had proceeded to shoot a load into his own mouth.

While the sex is hot and in-your-face, there is so much more to the story of Shortbus that it really cannot be described as porn. It is a beautifully produced story or people struggling to reconcile their own sexuality with their mundane daily existence. And, in the way it tells the characters stories it is truly profound. It is profound in the way it is unapologetic for the sex. It is equally profound in the dignity with which it treats its characters, even when the sex is absurd, like this wild 3-way between "James," his partner "Jamie" (played by PJ DeBoy) and "Ceth" (played by Jay Brannan and who has a striking resemblance to Ashton Kutcher in the film).

Shotbus was the first mainstream film distributed in the USA to include extensive unsimulated sex. Others have followed. But I have yet to see another film that can match Shortbus. It is worth owning the film for historical purposes alone. If you have not seen it, check it out.

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