Director Joe Swanberg Pitches a Version of 'Sex Tape' We Really Want to See

Director Joe Swanberg Pitches a Version of 'Sex Tape' We Really Want to See

Jul 24, 2014

Sex Tape is about a couple who film themselves getting frisky and then accidentally upload the video to the nefarious and nebulous Cloud, which in turn automatically syncs the video to a bunch of iPads they've already gifted to friends and strangers. Thus begins a race to stop the spread of the tape before anyone can watch it.

Apple, the products of which are the source of all the chaos in the movie, has already acknowledged that wouldn't happen in the real world. But for an even better analysis of the conflict at the heart of Sex Tape we turn to writer-director Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas), who is no stranger to making movies about the intimate lives of consensual adults. Over at The Talkhouse, he's written a breakdown of Jake Kasdan's movie that's a great read for a number of reasons.

Swanberg pins all of the movie's problems to one simple point of origin: It's trying to tell an analog story in a digital age. And his pitch for how you make a version of this story that actually makes sense is so simple and yet so smart it's bound to make you say, "Well damn, I wish that movie had been made instead."

Sex Tape, as is, should really take place in 1987, when the Jay character has just purchased a fancy new home video camera to record his son’s championship baseball game. With a bit of spark missing from their relationship, Jay and his wife Annie (Cameron Diaz) use this new video camera to record themselves having sex. Then Jay accidentally makes copies of the sex tape, instead of the championship baseball game, and he and Annie must retrieve these 10 VHS tapes from friends and family before anyone watches them.

But Swanberg's article isn't just about pitching an alternate version of the movie, it's about analyzing how the characters in the movie are forced to ignore any real-world logic. More importantly, he explores how the movie's message - that sex is something to be hidden and buried and ashamed of - is also weirdly backward in the year 2014. Warning, minor spoilers:

The most interesting scene in Sex Tape comes when two of Jay and Annie’s friends, played by Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper, secretly watch the sex tape and it turns them on so much that they immediately have sex in Annie and Jay’s car. This is followed by a scene in which Corddry and Kemper boost their friends’ egos by telling them how sexy they are and how exciting it was to watch the video. Whoa! That’s the kind of revolutionary sex-positive message I can get behind.

Having just watched Dawn of the Planet of the Apes the other day, about a simian flu that quickly spreads through humans, I briefly dreamed of a movie where Cordrry and Kemper go home and make their own sex tape, and soon everyone’s doing it, and the sheer number of sex tapes creates a world in which nobody can ever again be shamed for having and enjoying sex. No such luck in this movie, because the characters’ vanity wins out and they are so disgusted by themselves in the video that they destroy even their own personal copy. Great. Perhaps this analog movie is best suited to the 1950s.

The whole article is really worth a read regardless if you've seen Sex Tape. It's interesting to see one filmmaker's insights into the inner workings of another movie. In fact, that's what makes The Talkhouse such an interesting new platform. It exists entirely for filmmakers to write about other movies, so head over there and start exploring.




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