I Am a Sex AddictReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 06/01/06 23:55:35
I had a metaphor planned to describe how I could despise "I Am a Sex Addict" despite recognizing the validity in all the arguments that the other folks seeing the movie made. The metaphor, however, involved calculus, and while using calculus might earn me some points in appearing smart, it would bore many of the people reading this paragraph senseless. So I excised the calculus metaphor in favor of speaking plainly: "I Am a Sex Addict" is pretentious and dull.(See what I did there? I got my point across by talking directly to you, but while doing it I made sure that you knew that I'm smart and sophisticated - after all, I casually drop references to relatively advanced mathematics, just like filmmaker Caveh Zahedi casually mentions going to France to make a movie about a poet you've probably never heard of, unless you're as smart as Caveh. And I've tried to be all self-deprecating about it, like Caveh does with his dry delivery, but you know - we think we're smarter than you are, and we may be right - after all, we love calculus and French poetry.)
(And that? See that? I spoke directly to you, but did so in a manner that makes me seem kind of unpleasant. I've gone and created a sort of ambiguity - am I really a crass jerk, or am I a clever guy exaggerating my crass, jerky tendencies? Am I egotistical for thinking that I'm interesting not just despite, but because of, that obnoxious behavior, or am I "brave" for being willing to reveal myself in the media, warts and all?)
As you can see, that sort of self-referential commentary can get annoying real fast. Sure, it adds a little to the work - instead of just focusing on what I'm saying, or what's going on in the movie, you're invited to analyze how it's being presented. This adds complexity to the work, sure, but it's not a complexity that makes the movie much richer and/or more enjoyable; it mainly serves as a distraction to keep the audience from thinking that Caveh is doing the same things over and over again and not really learning from the experiences.
Caveh's our host for the film, recounting to us, moments before his wedding, how he's been married before, but his obsession with prostitutes wrecked it. And the relationship after that. And the more casual relationship after that. Occasionally, he'll make asides about how the people we see portrayed by actors wound up faring in real life, whether they be happily married or dead from cancer. And then it's on to bits that are either supposed to be funny because of repetition (the same street with a scantily-clad woman leaning against the wall is supposed to represent Los Angeles and Paris, and his interactions with the hookers only differ by their accents and the prices quoted), or are anecdotes that just sort of peter out and die without a real punchline. They're not funny, nor are they particularly dramatic. They're just sort of sad and pathetic.
There's nothing wrong with sad and pathetic; it's probably the tone that a story about a destructive addiction should take. That's blunted, though, by Caveh's relentless first-person narration. There's something phony in his voice both when he acts contrite or tries to pass his stories off as funny. And it's not even amusing phoniness; it's an ugly narcissism. We don't learn much if anything about sex addiction, or really become interested in Caveh Zahedi; it's just a guy talking about himself with the expectation that the audience will be interested but no actual reason for us to be. From the first "wait, let me back up a second" to the end, where the audience is invited to wonder whether he's really hijacking his own wedding to narrate a movie about his previous relationships, it's non-stop repulsiveness, and the attempts to disguise it with self-awareness don't make it any more worthwhile.Sure, "I Am a Sex Addict" is frequently clever, and you can have a good conversation about blurring the lines between fact and fiction afterward. But it's a hollow cleverness, ultimately not enough to hide that there's nothing of interest underneath it.
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