Nude Tuesday

Year: 2022
Production Co: Firefly Films
Director: Armagan Ballantyne
Writer: Armagan Ballantyne/Jackie van Beek
Cast: Jackie van Beek, Damon Herriman, Jemaine Clement

There were enough laugh out loud moments in the trailer for me to want to watch this film, but after it was over the overarching response I had to it was 'WTF'?

The tale promised in the trailer – of a couple experiencing the marital doldrums going to a sex therapy retreat and navigating the laughably hippy dippy people, processes and paraphernalia – is indeed the premise.

But there's too much in it that makes you wonder why it's there, and a final third that forgets it's a comedy and tries instead to only be heartfelt doesn't help.

Bruno (Damon Herriman) and Laura (Jackie van Beek, who wrote the story and screenplay) live in a country that looks, moves and sounds like somewhere in Scandinavia but is located in the mid Pacific ocean. At first I thought they were supposed to be Swedish or Norwegian, but apparently it's a made up language (the first problem – see below).

They're both urban professionals who live with their two daughters and are constantly stressed and overworked as they feel the pressure of modern life. When they host an anniversary dinner with their respective in-laws that descends into chaos, the one bright spot is the gift of a week long stay at a sexual health retreat to rekindle their marriage.

Bickering all the way, they arrive at the mountainous home of the place, run by its ultra-spiritual, cult-like sex zen/god leader Bjorg (Jemaine Clement) and try to settle in along with an eclectic cast of other visitors.

As they go through the increasingly bizarre sex-based exercises and lifestyle regimen dictated by Bjorg and his staff, it doesn't exactly have the desired effect the couple they hope for, but they do come to plenty of realisations about marriage, sex and the weirdos around them who've drunk a very particular flavour of Kool Aid.

It's not the first comedy about a struggling couple in some sort of marital therapy, a premise that's always ripe for satire to begin with. But I found myself asking what the fake language and subtitles really added. If you're going to do that, why apply it to this? It just felt like I was trying to watch two different comedy routines at once.

Even then, I might not have had time to ask myself that question if it hadn't just run out of laughs about three fifths of the way through. It becomes more interested in Bruno and Laura's plight than comedy, and because you've expected (and been given) such mirth until then, you don't care about what's happening to them as much as the film does.

It's certainly something you've never seen before, but it's bizarre rather than funny.

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