The title of the comedy The End of Sex could’ve meant a lot of things. Or maybe just a few, some of them positive: playful, ironic, or at least heartfelt. It certainly didn’t need to be so dire a warning, a prediction, or by the time it finally reaches its conclusion, so vicious.
Once the exhausting experience that is viewing it grinds to a halt, the lasting impression is one of the most sexist, homophobic films in years. And an unwitting tribute to the resplendent power of divorce.
These things tend to begin as promisingly as they usually do, with longtime married couple Josh (co-writer Jonas Chernick) and Emma (Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire) sending their preteen kids off for about a week of winter camp. Realizing they now have a whole lot of time on their hands, they decide to “make some sex,” and things spiral from there.
Chernick and Hampshire make a convincingly adorable couple and have some great comedic chemistry, while likewise making us believe that sex is something they seem to be out of practice on. Their first attempt at gettin’ it on sees Emma and Josh both faking their respective climaxes and ending things in the most dissatisfied way possible, nailing the whole funny-because-it’s-not-me approach. But they figure they have time to rediscover intimacy together, and the quest to get it on begins.
With such potential, not to mention charming leads, The End of Sex could’ve been a comedy that was actually heartfelt and honest about how mutual pleasure in a long-term relationship can be difficult, even when both parties are interested and deeply connected to each other. But actually exploring innovative paths to pleasure doesn’t seem to be a real option here, with the movie portraying and emphasizing the same old regressive threats to the marrieds in a modern setting.
The End of Sex is so unthinkingly, unfailingly, aggressively hetereo-normative that sex toys aren’t even mentioned as a potential option. It’s no longer shocking for grown women, even mothers, to have vibrators, so why Emma doesn’t make use of one is baffling enough.
The options that the movie actually does include don’t fare much better, with a swingers club portrayed as a hotbed of freaks in animal masks, Ecstasy leading to little more than an early finish, and Emma’s bisexual coworker (Melanie Scrofano) the two bring in for a threesome amounting to little more than a sex-crazed stalker.
The biggest threat is the man that the movie doesn’t perceive as a threat at all, the faux nice guy Josh, whose insecurities drive him to emotionally abuse his wife. He not only can’t even hear about a fantasy Emma has that involves another man without leaving their home and checking into a hotel, he even escalates the situation by having his coworker Kelly (Lily Gao) call Emma and pretend to be a potential hookup.
In no world should this guy be considered worth any woman’s time and energy, at least not without a whole lotta therapy, but he’s never depicted as anything but Emma’s committed partner. That it’s taken for granted that they belong together is downright chilling.
It never had to be this way. Marriage has provided fuel for hilariously comic mishaps since practically the beginning of film itself, and modern comedies with an appreciation for raunch have successfully been painfully honest and heartfelt about modern married life while being riotously funny, as Date Night and Hope Springs have proved.
But the only way The End of Sex could approach anything resembling success is demeaning everyone involved. Middle-aged couples who want to laugh at their own inertness have found their movie but could’ve at least left (every damn letter of) the LGBTQ community out of it.
Rating: 1/10 SPECS
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor, and film critic who is also the founder and director of the Film Girl Film Festival.
She is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics and runs her own site, A Reel Of One's Own, and has written for RogerEbert.com, The Spool, The Mary Sue, Inverse, and The Chicago Reader. She has no intention of becoming any less obsessed with cinema, comics, or nerdom in general.