Intercourse/Life evaluation – they’re coming of their droves … and never for the dialogue | Tv & radio
To Paraphrase the ever-relevant Mrs. Merton: What first attracted viewers to the sex-strewn, nudity-heavy sauce festival Sex / Life (Netflix)? The show, an adaptation of BB Easton’s novel 44 Chapters about 4 Men, shot to the top of the Netflix Top 10 last week. Call me suspicious, but after sitting through eight episodes of junk with the occasional melodramatic, I don’t think it’s the dialogue that people are streaming in droves.
Sarah Shahi is Billie Connelly (and if that’s not considering an alternate version starring a disheveled Scottish comedian, you’re a better person than me), a woman in her thirties with two young children who lives in a big house in the suburbs with her Ken doll husband Cooper. Cooper has a vague job in the TV business where he goes to meetings, looks tired and wears a suit. Every interior, from the penthouse to the villa to the restaurant to the “small” apartment, looks like the lobby of an upscale hotel; Each hairstyle is styled and sprayed firmly down to within an inch of its follicles.
Billie realizes that she is dissatisfied with her shiny life, especially with the sexual side that has become a routine. In her twenties, while doing a PhD in psychology, Billie “hacked through half of Manhattan” as she says. Now she’s struggling to keep her husband’s attention even when naked and sitting on top of him. If the conflict was not clear, in the first episode Billie’s son shows a butterfly that he has caught in a jar. “She can’t breathe there and will die if you don’t let her out,” says Billie. Do you see?
Billie begins to dream of her past life and of hot and violent rendezvous with her ex-boyfriend Brad, who is a walking leather jacket – a record label with record label charm. Brad, more hairstyle than character, treats her meanly to keep her sharp, enjoys Miles Davis’ music, hates his father, and has a big penis. Billie writes her memories of their stormy relationship in a sex diary, which she leaves open for Cooper on her laptop. At first, it adds a little spark to their marriage. Soon he becomes jealous and insecure. The episodes cut between her two lives: wild with Brad, solid with Cooper. Who will she choose?
That this dilemma spans eight long episodes is almost impressive considering how sparse the story is. Brad is a bad boy, which means that he treats Billie terribly and is prone to passive-aggressive tantrums when she is nice to him. But “the intensity of our conversations was intoxicating,” she faints. But instead of the intensity of their conversations, we see the intensity of their neon-lit sex in swimming pools, neon-lit sex in corridors and occasionally, just in bed, in soft light, staring into each other’s eyes. He’s a tormented soul, and he just needs the love of a good woman so he doesn’t act like a thundering asshole.
There are attempts to bring a bit of Sex & the City spirit to this goofy saga; Billie even has a meltdown over cupcakes in Manhattan. But Carrie Bradshaw would never let this prose near her laptop: “The stability and sanity it offered was a calming balm for my exhausted, scorched soul,” writes Billie of the reliable Cooper, whereupon I called the alliteration police and an attack on consonants. Later, exhausted the idea that young and responsibility-free seems more attractive than looking after two children, reaches for an orgy as the solution to their marital problems and suddenly becomes quite prudish. Me too: Nobody should have to hear the line “Get your fuck on” without much warning.
I appreciate that finding authentic dialogue here is like showing up at Center Court and watching a decent soccer game. Shahi is way better than the material she was given, although the rest of the cast seem to have accepted her cardboard fate, and I suspect it shouldn’t be half as fun as it often is. There are ideas here that could be enlighteningly explored: the lure of reckless youth towards stability in later life, or the problems Cooper has with his wife’s sexual history and why it bothers him so much that she does it before they meet had “been distorted in at least 73% of the positions in the Kama Sutra, as we all should”. But nothing goes deep except, well, you get the idea.