Monday, June 2, 2014

The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom (NB Thrilling Films 4, Thrill Films 2, 2014)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2014 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The film had the awkward title The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom — which, not surprisingly, promised something considerably more titillating than what got delivered here — and was written by our old friend Christine Conradt, supposedly based on a non-fiction “memoir” by Delaine Moore. Her odd first name is retained in the film but her last name is changed to “Morris,” perhaps out of fear that her husband (now, presumably, her ex-husband) would sue, since Robert Morris (Scott Gibson) is the real villain of the piece. When the film opens Robert and Delaine are in one of those nastily unhappy marriages reminiscent of the Cold War, and (unusually for a film both made and set in 2014) Delaine is strictly a stay-at-home housewife, since Robert has a job that earns him enough money to support the two of them and their two kids, son Tyler (Evan Brzozowski) and daughter Amanda (Sonia Maria Chirila). He also behaves exactly like all the creepy husbands in the miserable marriages Betty Friedan wrote about in The Feminine Mystique over half a century ago, subjecting Delaine to “the problem that has no name” big-time. What’s more, when the movie opens Delaine receives a mysterious call from one of Robert’s other girlfriends — he’s been spending a lot of time away from home on “business trips,” and anyone who’s seen more than about three movies in their life knows what that means — which she traces to a bar, whereupon the other woman who placed the call, Natasha (Alexis Maitland), instructs Jimmy, the bartender (Eddie Guillaume), a light-skinned African-American who quite frankly is the hottest guy in this film by a wide margin, to tell Delaine she’s not there. (Jimmy has a brief crisis of conscience about that but eventually does what she’s ordered.) Delaine tries to keep Robert from straying again by throwing her body at him but she confesses to us (the entire film is narrated by Delaine — or at least by Ashley Jones, the actress playing her — in an annoyingly perky voiceover) that she’s not enjoying it.

What’s more, she complains about odd pains in her side that her regular doctors can’t do anything even to diagnose, let alone treat, and her friend Hali (Cynthia Preston) — the name is pronounced “Hailey” and for most of the movie that’s what I thought it was — recommends she undergo acupuncture. Needless to say, her acupuncturist, Graham (Jeff Roop) is drop-dead gorgeous, and at their sessions they vibrate with mutual sexual desire and finally get it on on his exam table, following which they have a full-blown affair, mostly in hotel rooms with so many candles burning it seems as if Graham saw the Streisand version of A Star Is Born and had an orgasm in the theatre. Graham is so hot, and so convincing in his line of patter about how they’re spiritual soul mates and not just sex partners, that Delaine is emboldened to tell Robert she wants a divorce — only as soon as he’s moved out, Delaine learns from a woman friend that Graham has another girlfriend who’s pregnant with his child. Hali suggests Delaine try joining an online dating site (as I’ve commented several times in these pages, one of the nice things about the longevity of my relationship with my husband Charles has been that I’ve not had to subject myself to the indignities of Internet dating!), which she does, and the first day her profile is on the site she gets 43 responses. Alas, the first guy stands her up, making her 0-for-3 in the man department at least as we’ve seen so far. She does make a couple of more potentially productive contacts online, including boy-toy Peyton (Wesley Morgan, nice enough looking but hardly the sort of irresistible piece of man-meat one expects to see on a show like this — frankly, I’d have rather seen her getting it on with Jimmy the bartender!) and Shane, a.k.a. “The Duke,” a 1-percenter in the Seattle area who puts her through a dominance-and-submission routine, saying that by submitting to him (instead of that creep of a husband she’s got rid of) she’ll learn to get in touch with her own power and will be able to get other men to submit to her.

They have long long-distance phone calls on their cell phones (presumably meaning they don’t have to pay the tolls for long-distance calling those of us with traditional landlines still suffer through) during which he tells her to do humiliating things like strip totally naked and pose in front of her window so the neighbors can see her (and so, if her husband happens by, he can use that to bolster his threat to take her to court for sole custody of her kids), have an affair with Peyton but don’t get emotionally involved or allow him to, and visit a sex club. Accordingly Delaine goes to a sex club with Peyton as her date and is told by the cheery social-director type woman who runs it that she’s allowed to have sex wherever she wants within the premises, with whomever she wants (male or female), and however she wants, as long as it’s consensual, and free condoms are made available for risk-reduction purposes. The sex club is as boring as most movie depictions of such venues are — I’ve noted for years that Gay bathhouses (essentially buildings where men can pay an admission fee and meet other men for casual sex on premises) were legal for decades (at least until most cities started shutting them down for health reasons, allegedly to curb the spread of AIDS) but attempts at similar venues for heterosexuals have routinely been prosecuted for violating the prostitution laws. Eventually, Shane finally gives Delaine her long-awaited invitation to his lakefront redoubt in the Seattle area, where instead of meeting her personally at the airport he sends a car and driver, and keeps her waiting for hours before he finally descends from his mountaintop to give her his marching orders — no panties at any time during the weekend (I couldn’t resist but joke, “Yes, sir, Mayor Filner”), she’s not allowed to do anything except by his permission — which she is supposed to ask for with the phrase, “With permission of the Duke … ,” and she must be willing, ready and available for sex with him any time he gives the word. If she disobeys, he’s going to put a leash on her and walk her up and down the outside of the property so everyone in the neighborhood (not that there is anyone else discernible in the neighborhood) will know she’s been a bad sub. I know a lot of people who are into various aspects of the dom/sub and other kink lifestyles, and judging from my personal acquaintances what’s shown in this film is little more than a titillating joke about something its real-life practitioners take far more seriously than this!

The amazing thing is that Delaine’s hot, humiliating weekend with Shane seems to work on her like a successful course of psychotherapy: she starts her own business (temporary interior decoration for the holidays) just in time for Christmas — aided by Shane’s sage counsel on how to incorporate and minimize her tax liabilities — she gets over her husband and accepts his new girlfriend Pam (Rosa Laborde), she tells us in her voiceover that she’s content without being in a relationship, but then she meets a tall, rather gangly but still attractive man named Aiden Parker (Richard Roy Sutton) and it looks like she’s headed for … well, Conradt’s script, directed effectively but uncreatively by someone named John L’Ecuyer (which sounds like the alias of one of the guys she would have met online), leaves it up in the air as to whether they’re going to get together and, even if they do, how long it will last. Personally, I’d have rather see it end with Delaine getting back together with Robert but invigorating their sex life by making him her sub! This is supposedly a true story, and it’s certainly different from the scripts that made Christine Conradt’s reputation and made her the Lifetime auteur — there aren’t any psychos (even Robert, the closest thing this film has to a villain, is merely a bad old-fashioned male-chauvinist husband), there aren’t any “perfect” people drawing the innocent heroine into a web of craziness and physical peril, there isn’t any big last-minute rescue in which the police have to come in and save Our Heroine from the person in whom she’s placed too much trust. I suspect Conradt was drawn to this project precisely so she could demonstrate that she could write something without those elements. The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom hardly lives up to the titillation promised in the title, but within its limits it’s an O.K. piece of mindless fun, decently acted by Ashley Jones as Delaine (the rest of the cast members look right for their parts and aren’t required to show much in the way of acting skills) but so redolent of that recent best-seller, also about a 1-percenter who subjects a woman to a series of humiliating sex acts that are supposed to bring her personal fulfillment, it might as well have been called Fifty Shades of Off-White.