Yesterday was quintessential Seattle weather: softly raining and mild. I walked over to UW for a 5:30 pm bike master plan meeting, then stopped at District Market to pick up a tabouli, and jumped on a bus back to the Guild Theater on 45th to see The Sessions.
That's the movie with John Hawke and Helen Hunt, based on Mark O'Brien's true story, which takes place in the '70s, I think, in Berkeley. He spends most of his time in an iron lung, because of polio, and hires a sex surrogate (Hunt) so he can experience intercourse. He's a devout Catholic, and much of the experience is narrated to his priest. (The celibate priest's expressive hearing of the reports packs its own punch.)
I loved it. More often than not, Christian believers in movies are jerks, but these folks were not. The sex was beyond physical, and the vulnerability and intimacy necessary to get there was moving to me.
John Hawke was mostly an expressive head in a contorted body, and completely wonderful, so unexpected in our modern age which seems to convey the idea you don't deserve to have good sex unless you're physically perfect. I guess a movie hero needs to be a guy you can imagine falling in love with, and he is, and I could.
Helen Hunt's character is kind of hard-edged. But she needed to be. She needed to manage sexuality within clear boundaries. She had six sessions to teach a man how he works and how she works. Her marriage doesn't look so good -- they don't talk and don't have sex -- and, romantic that I am, I wonder how anybody could have a great marriage when your day job is sex with strangers. That all worked for me.
So I was disgusted to read David Denby's mini-review in my neighbor's New Yorker, which she kindly passes on to me. "Easily the most highly sanctified movie about sex ever made," and "so clammily sensitive and tame that it stifles any strong response," etc.
So who you gonna believe? The New Yorker, or me?
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