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Film review: How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town – Canadian comedy plays it safe

Story of a sex party in sleepy Beaver’s Ridge seems reluctant to get down and dirty, yet the performances are uniformly likeable and its bashful earnestness almost endearing in the end

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 9:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 2:17pm

2.5/5 stars

What could have been a biting satire pitting small-town conservatism against big-city liberalism, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town plays its suburban sexploits so safely it threatens to say nothing at all.

Ten years after an embarrassing high school encounter sends Cassie running to Toronto, she returns to the sleepy town of Beaver’s Ridge for her mother’s funeral. Now a celebrated sex columnist, Cassie (Jewel Staite) discovers her ex-boyfriend Adam (Ennis Esmer) has married her arch-enemy Heather (Lauren Lee Smith), best friend Alice (Katherine Isabelle) is a serial man-eater, while a scathing article Cassie published years earlier has turned the entire community against her.

Soon enough, however, this oddball assortment of repressed townsfolk turns to Cassie – a certified sex guru in their eyes – to help them organise a special party, which they foolishly believe will solve the myriad problems plaguing their personal lives. Needless to say, a multitude of secrets and unspoken yearnings are laid bare, but Cassie may yet find forgiveness and reason to embrace her hometown once again.

Written and directed by Jeremy LaLonde, the film’s biggest problem is its reluctance to examine sexual taboos in any meaningful way, or exploit them for our titillation. Sketchily drawn characters flip from prudes to pervs with little provocation, and unsurprisingly learn that their problems would be better resolved through conversation rather than coitus.

That said, the performances in this well-meaning Canadian comedy are uniformly likeable, only making their misdeeds and the film’s bashful earnestness all the more endearing.

How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town opens on August 11

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