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Some dreams are too true to be good.


Sex and Death 101
(2007)

If you liked Daniel Waters' writing in the early '90s you had a good few mainstream films to check it out in (Batman ReturnsHudson HawkDemolition Man). But then he disappeared off the map, and his under-talented brother (Mark) became successful.

This is Daniel's second directorial outing (after Happy Campers) and it has a suitably skewed, sour and sometimes surreal humour that made Heathers a classic. This isn't one. Possibly because, while Waters is a competent director, he doesn't have that visual spark that Michael Lehmann had in his early career (where the hell is a Meet the Applegates DVD release?). The direction, like the script, feels too schematic and essayed (main character is sent an email with the names of all the women he has and will ever sleep with). 

It’s often very funny, sometimes not as clever as it thinks it is and occasionally seems to feel the need to go for an Apatow-style gross-out (which is strange, since Waters effectively bad mouths the Apatow formula on the commentary). Where this really scores is in two pieces of casting. Firstly, Simon Baker (of The Mentalist) is breezily likable and charming as the protagonist, granting him a lot of leeway in his less sympathetic behaviour. Secondly, Winona Ryder is granted her best role in over a decade as "Death" Nell, a psychopathic figure on the edges of the film who is putting men in comas. I thought she was a goner, but she has that easy-going wit and personability here that reminds you why she was so appealing when she first started out.

***1/2

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