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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Whipped

Starring: Amanda Peet, Brian Van Holt
Director: Peter Cohen
Rated: R
RunTime: 85 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Judah Domke, Jonathan Abrahams, Callie Thorne, Zorie Barber

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

On the day of the New York opening of "Whipped"-- perhaps not coincidentally--New York Times critic Stephen Holden came out with a think piece entitled "Can Art Cinema Survive Cruder Times?" Holden calls art movies a withering relic, stating that "the...erotic frankness that seemed revelatory and boundary-breaking to an older generation are now taken for granted by younger audiences inured to (and amused by) 'The Jerry Springer Show.'"

"Whipped" elbows aside even the boundaries bulldozed by Mr. Springer. In a movie in which scarcely a minute passes without the expression of a (once) taboo word or an illustration of the sex acts embodied by the term, Peter Cohen's film, which is at its most common downright vulgar and at best suggestive, is an entertaining frolic, one that does not stop to catch a breath for its entire eighty-two minutes' duration. Yep. This is a guilty pleasure, one which can't help inviting some laughs and grins, but which caters to the lowest common denominator in the audience. How so? Instead of allowing the viewers to extract the motif, or theme of the story in their own minds, Cohen's narration states--not once, but twice--"everyone f**** everybody else." In other words, this deeply cynical portrayal of humanity calls (mostly) men on the carpet as Neil LaBute did in "The Company of Men," but does so without the slightest attempt at subtlety. And that is the difference between an electrifying movie like "In the Company of Men," a work whose low budget does not take away from its dark view of the male mentality. LaBute posits two yuppie office workers who make a pact to date a woman and dump her after she falls in love with them, allowing the audience to summon his vision--while "Whipped," simply spoon feeds the writer-director's derisive dicta to the audience.

Instead of LaBute's two scheming yuppies, one of whom is reluctant to go through with his Iago-like pal's plan to mess up a woman's life, "Whipped" focuses on three, actually four, comrades who meet regularly at Sunday brunch to discuss the scams they pulled off successfully on women to seduce them. Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams) look like a post-'50's beat with his goatee and comes across as the most responsive one, the one who is not really sure of his charm or even his sexual orientation. He hangs out with Zeke (Zorie Barber), who wears those fashionable, oval-shaped glasses (which I hate) and with the handsomest of the group, Brad (Brian Van Holt), who claims to bond with the women he likes by pretending to know people who are close to them. Eric (Judah Domke), the only married guy of the lot, joins them later, is initially considered an outsider because he is not expected to tell the down-and-dirty stuff about himself and his wife, but manages to restore his credentials at these weekly meetings by doing just that.

When the three gross-out single guys all wind up dating the same woman, Mia (Amanda Peet), in a coincidence beyond the ken of any sensible scripter, they get their comeuppance- -but only after they have enjoyed the sexually liberated fellowship of this lovely lass, fall in love with her, and come to blows (so to speak) in competing for her heart.

Writer-director Peter M. Cohen may be demonstrating his philosophy, that men and women are both vicious beasts--no, as stated before, he actually expresses his motif straight on-- or he may simply be feigning a dark, dark view of humanity to make a few bucks on his film. Credit the man with the ability to write snappy, zappy lines that resound across the screen with the speed of an Uzi. Still, his real cynicism could be his view that no audience is intelligent enough to fathom a film of any appreciable subtlety.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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