Unruly, by Rita Cannon
Leslie Greif’s 10 Rules For Sleeping Around claims in its opening credits to have been inspired by the 1969 stage farce Move Over, Mrs. Markham. While Greif’s film is positively boiling over with the superficial trappings of the genre – slamming doors, mistaken identities, nubile youths hiding in closets – it lacks any of the wit, live-ware pacing, or committed acting that’s required to make a farce tolerable. That spark of joyful anarchy has to be there, otherwise it’s just a stupid story that doesn’t make any damn sense. Sadly, 10 Rules For Sleeping Around is exactly that.
The thin yet convoluted plot concern two couples: Vince and Cameron (Jesse Bradford and Virginia Williams) have been married for several years, while Ben and Kate (Chris Marquette and Tammin Sursok) are on the verge of engagement. Seeking advice on the married life, Ben and Kate learn that Vince and Cameron’s secret to happiness is an open marriage, governed by the titular ten rules. If you were hoping to find “open communication” or “respect for your partner’s feelings” mentioned in the rules, then the joke’s on you, square! Buckle up, it’s gonna be a wild ride! (There is a rule against orgies, though.)
Fifteen minutes of painful contrivances later, everybody is in the Hamptons, where Cameron and Vince are each hoping to hook up with their respective lovers, and Kate is tagging along while toying with the idea of cheating on Ben with an ex. Meanwile, Ben is trying to crash an opulent party thrown by an eccentric media magnate (Michael McKean, the only person who manages to mine even a single laugh out this awful thing) so he can sign a renowned children’s author (Wendi McClendon-Covey) to his and Vince’s e-publishing company, which is floundering. Things do not go as planned, of course, and soon everything degenerates into a melange of over-the-top set pieces involving male nudity (hilarious!), males in dresses (whaaaa???), horny dogs (gross!), horny middle-aged people (grosser!), and a bunch of other things that are not that funny. The one thing Greif does successfully translate from classic stage farces to his own film is retrograde sexual politics. The film’s gay and bisexual characters are treated as hilarious because they are gay or bisexual, and its perception of female sexuality is weirdly tainted by classism. Waspy, middle-class Cameron is seen as cool and empowered by her promiscuity, while the women Vince hooks up with – who behave the same way, but have Jersey accents and less stylish clothes – are presented as dumb sluts who deserve to be laughed at. A last-minute reveal, wherein we learn that Cameron is less comfortable with her open marriage than she pretends to be, actually compounds the problem.
What’s the point of making a genre tribute that only successfully puts across the very worst things about that genre?