Ensemble Pieces: Shortbus


If one can get through the initial shock from the first few minutes of “Shortbus”, what John Cameron Mitchell ultimately unravels is a beautiful film about the sexual frustrations of today’s 20-somethings. It is not pornographic, but maybe voyeuristic. It does not exploit, but merely explores.

The film features an eclectic cast of characters – a gay couple, a dominatrix, an ironically sexually-frustrated sex therapist and her husband, a stalker, and a musician. Their conflicted stories intertwine with each other and are collectively resolved in the the saloon from which the title of the movie is derived, the place for the gifted and challenged.

Despite being a virtually unknown cast, their portrayal of their respective characters is so effective and true-to-form that the film almost felt like a documentary. Maybe it’s because the actors found parallelism between themselves and their characters.

What makes the film work and stand out is the use of sex as the medium in which the characters display their anger, desperation, loneliness, and finally, satisfaction. Be warned that the film makes no effort to veil the oft intimate act of sex in any form of pretension.

However, it would be almost impossible to understand the context of the film without sitting through these scenes. Much like the Kama Sutra, “Shortbus” is probably not for everyone, but anyone who has the guts to watch the entire film will feel a bit cathartic afterwards.


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