And another thing: Beyer has an oddly exploitative eye for the female body. While she rarely shows her own, she pans enough sandy butts and naked breasts to stock an '80s-era girlie calendar. Still, for all its skin, the film is deeply unerotic, and its interspersed sex scenes smack of low-budget porn. When one woman boasts that she came four times the night before, the macha banality of it is depressing, particularly since the guy she slept with is a jerk who doesn't give a hoot about her.
The film's superficial, outsiderly take on women may have deeper roots: Without giving anything away, let's just say that Jazz has her private reasons for not feeling like a "real" woman. This internal conflict, and Jazz's need to document females anthropologist/pornographer-style, lies somewhere at the film's core. We're never sure if that's intentional or not, or how much of this character is invented and how much is the filmmaker herself.
Freak show: The Venus fly girls of Let's Talk About Sex
Beyer has said, "I kept thinking about those conversations you have in clubs and restaurants in the ladies' room, when you'll confess your most intimate secrets to total strangers. I wanted to capture that kind of confessional on screen." Yes. I know exactly what she's talking about, and I have to applaud her for trying. Still, that vision may be part of the trouble here. I, too, have heard women complain about lovers in front of a disco's bathroom mirror; I've heard them bitch about their bodies or compliment each other; I've felt that insta-sista vibe between the mascara brush and the lipstick. This sort of instant bonding is one of the perks of the oppressed. But too often it's built from a context of "You're a babe, I'm a babe; men like us a lot." And the talk never reaches any real depth.
Similarly, Let's Talk About Sex is just a surface trip through female sexuality, leaving women viewers with a few knowing nods at the screen, a whole lot of questions, and the sense that, oops, maybe I really am a freak. One woman in the film says she's tired of all the Mars/Venus bullshit; it's time for us to come together. Right on, one wants to say. Unfortunately, the movie is sculpted in part from that very bullshit, and it does little of the heavy lifting needed to help us get off our respective planets.