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Elektra Luxx
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by Jay Seaver

"Neither sucks nor pulls one in."
3 stars

Although "Elektra Luxx" is being released in markets where "Women in Trouble" didn't play theatrically, and you can probably follow along well enough without having seen the other one. And despite it picking up on threads from that movie, that may be the best way to see it - that way, the viewer won't be thinking of how much better the first one was.

We open on Bert Rodriguez (Joshua Gordon-Levitt) lamenting the retirement of Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) on his porn-oriented vlog. Elektra is pregnant, see, and though she's not ashamed of her old job - she even teaches a course on how to spice up one's marriage at the local community center - it's not the life she wants any more. She's about to get an odd reminder of it, though - Cora (Marley Shelton), the flight attendant who was in the middle of a tryst with the rock star father-to-be when he died (really, see the first movie) arrives and offers her the lyrics he was going to use for his next album (all of which are about Elektra) if she'll help assuage her guilt by seducing her fiance. Meanwhile, Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki), one of Elektra's old co-workers, is heading out on vacation with her best friend (Emmanuelle Chirqui), which has the potential to be awkward because Holly's starting to think she may want to be more than friends.

Though the title implies that this movie will focus solely (or at least primarily) on Elektra, that turns out not to be the case; both Bert's and Holly's stories go their own way without intersecting very much. That's a problem, because all three are decidedly not created equal: Bert's segments are filled with tedious, played-out jokes about bloggers who present themselves as experts but live with their parents and have nothing outside their obsessions, and neither Bert nor Holly gets nearly as much good material as Elektra. That's as it should be - she is, after all, the title character - but if their stories are going to be such slight reflections of hers, then maybe writer/director Sebastian Guitierrez shouldn't spend so much time on them.

Admittedly, there is more going on than may meet the eye at first; all three characters are basically telling stories about figuring out that expertise in sexual technique doesn't mean they know a thing about intimacy. At the same time, they're confronting the assumptions people make about them for being in that business, even those who might be expected to know better. The writing is still a mess - the finales to two of the three stories are basically characters being handed salvation on a silver platter, and self-awareness does not make re-using a situation from the first film seem anything but lazy - but Guitierrez is at least giving his cast something to work with.

It's a cast filled with recognizable faces - in addition to those mentioned above, you'll see Timothy Olyphant, Malin Akerman, Kathleen Quinlan, Julianne Moore, and Justin Kirk - but two stand out. Carla Gugino is more than good enough as the title character to make her part of the story work; she's able to make Elektra a grounded, decent person who is part a weird world. It's not a straight-man role; she's part of this world, funny and eccentric herself - but there's always layers of hurt at the assumptions people make about her and fear that they might be right there, too. Meanwhile, Adrianne Palicki remains a complete delight as Holly Rocket. She executes dumb-blonde bits with absolutely perfect comic timing and confidence, but in such a way that she's capable of self-examination that and reflection that's more than an incongruous punchline.

Gugino and Palicki are good enough here that it's a shame that they only really have one scene together. They give the movie all that they can; sadly, the movie doesn't reciprocate.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20193&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/18/11 01:50:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival For more in the 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 15th Annual Gen Art Film Festival For more in the 15th Annual Gen Art Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  11-Mar-2011 (R)
  DVD: 21-Jun-2011

UK
  N/A

Australia
  11-Mar-2011
  DVD: 21-Jun-2011




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