Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Literacy Of Sex In "Concussion"

Robin Weigert as Abby, who encounters Maggie Siff in Stacie Passon's "Concussion", out on DVD today in the U.S.
  Radius TWC

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Few American films in recent memory have been as open and mature about women, relationships, commitment and the literacy of sex as Stacie Passon's "Concussion" has.  Ms. Passon's feature directing debut arrived on DVD today in the U.S. and Canada following its brief run in theaters last October.  "Concussion" is available on Amazon's instant video streaming service. 

One of the ten best films of 2013, "Concussion" is thought-provoking, honest and adult about its characters and situations.  It is an erotic, arousing film about Abby (Robin Weigert, in the year's best performance), a housewife with kids, married to Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) and living in New Jersey.  A baseball to the head concusses Abby, and the impetus to explore herself and sexual possibilities in other women results in her buying a loft in New York City, where she seeks refuge from a passionless marriage and finds intimacy in others in an escort service she runs there.

"Concussion" tackles myriad issues in its brief 96-minute running time, including middle-age, parenting, body image, physical and sexual viability, relationship arrangements, family, and sex-for-hire.  Some of "Concussion" is based on true events that happened to Ms. Passon, who is married to a woman and living in the Garden State.  "Concussion" never breaks stride, nor does it moralize or judge its characters.

In the film we get a keen perspective on desire, sex and the compartmentalization of Abby's life.  Abby doesn't have contempt for Kate; she simply feels isolated and imprisoned by a lack of emotional and sexual fulfillment.  Kate tells Abby she has no energy for passion.  It's a life that she has retired.  This is their reality as a married couple.  Abby loves her kids and her wife.  She's unsatisfied sexually.  She escapes to New York City.  For Abby there's less guilt than relief.  She has found fresh air. 

Abby multitasks between her ordered everyday life at home with her wife and kids and her free-flowing sexually adventurous life.  Abby is apparently more uncomfortable with her escort life as "Eleanor" than she may be in exercising sexual freedom.  She's naturally uneasy.  "I'd like to meet them for coffee first," she cautiously tells Justin (Johnathan Tchaikovsky), who has been setting Abby up with various women with the help of a nameless but wryly comic ex-girlfriend.  Soon the sexual meetings transpire. 

On the big screen we are accustomed to routine and robotic sex that is scenic but meaningless.  We typically don't get any sense of the characters -- specifically female characters -- beyond their shapely, sexy bodies.  In "Concussion" there's an intelligence, care and literacy about the sex and communication between women about sex.  We connect the sex that the women have to their personalities.  By Ms. Passon allowing us to indulge in the erotic pleasures of her characters the scenes themselves become as integral to the characters' senses of being as to the story itself.  It's a wholly enriching and invigorating experience that we as an audience are treated to and invested in rather than detached from.

The women of "Concussion" do something many of us may not do: talk openly and candidly about their sexual needs.  These articulations are a foreplay of the mind as well as the body.  Conversations abut sex in "Concussion" are frank and natural.  This kind of dialogue about sex is missing in many American films, including some independent ones.  "Concussion" isn't an awkward film as it shows some nervous conversations -- it is a very confident one. 

"Concussion" immerses us in the sexual awareness of its characters, their inadequacies, doubts, fears, fantasies and exhilarations.  Flawed yet fully realized by film's end, Abby is thinking more clearly and resonantly about all aspects of her life.  Ms. Passon so cleverly ties the sex back to Abby's existence as a complete person.  The sex, while undeniably hot, isn't on display solely for the sake of titillation.  The sex functions as a meaningful character of its own.  The intensity and quality of the sex evolves as a character in the story and how it positions itself as a conduit to healing and an inner peace and satisfaction. 

Abby is a totally aware being, fully realized and with multiple roles, and we find out, perhaps not surprisingly, that she isn't alone in her unhappiness in her sexual relationship.  A man wants her loft for his own home away from home.  The implication is that he too is unhappy in his relationship.  By contrast it is unclear if a married woman named Sam (Maggie Siff) is happy in her sex life with her husband or simply wants to explore other sexual possibilities.

"Concussion" gives us clues to the answer.  On another level the film indicates that commitment and security worries obviously aren't the province of any one type of woman.  Sam has her own latencies and is honest and frank about her fantasy and curiosity.  Sam loves her husband but she knows what she wants when she sees Abby/Eleanor.  The women in Ms. Passon's film have little problem articulating their sexual needs or in articulating that they don't know what those needs are.

Less a bold film than a liberating one, "Concussion" treats its audience as adults and its characters as real, tangible people we can identify with.  The awkwardness that comes with discussing sex with anyone, let alone our partners, is part of the anticipation and anxiety we see when Abby has those coffee conversations with her prospective customers.  Awkward or not, in a world where the iPhone and social media increasingly dominate interactions between strangers, Stacie Passon's film tells us to communicate directly, to get in touch each other, and even more importantly, ourselves.

"Concussion" is rated R for strong sexual content and language by the Motion Picture Association Of America.

COPYRIGHT 2014.  POPCORNREEL.COM.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.                Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW