CATEGORIES Comedy, Independent, Romance, Theatrical Reviews, Cinematical Indie, Reviews, Cinematical
Priscilla (Parker Posey) and Jack Chase (Paul Rudd) have been married for 10 years. In those 10 years, they've had sex exactly 1,483 times, encounters that have given Priscilla exactly zero orgasms. Though this "sexual dysfunction" doesn't seem to trouble her particularly -- she's a little overly-organized (the above count comes from her), but is also the recently-promoted vice-president of an advertising firm -- it's destroyed her husband's life. Once an inspiring, passionate high school chemistry teacher with ambition and good looks to boot, he's morphed into a sad-sack lump who teaches by having his students read their textbooks in class, while he surreptitiously sips from what looks suspiciously like a can of beer. His ego, you see, has been severely damaged by his inability to give his wife pleasure in bed (Before they were married, he insists to their counselor, he made lots of women come -- some of them more than once!), and his confidence in himself has evaporated as a result.
When Priscilla, after much uncomfortable laughter at the idea, secretly takes their marriage counselor up on his suggestion to buy a vibrator and bring herself to orgasm, and the miserable Jack begins an affair with a precocious and, as such characters tend to be, irritatingly wise, student (Mischa Barton) and moves out, Priscilla is given the push she needs to move beyond the Priscilla that everyone (including her) expects, and see what else she has to offer. The film, then, has potential: Speaking frankly about the subject of female sexuality is something that is rarely done in American films, and the idea of making the topic the subject of a woman-focused comedy is an interesting one. Disappointingly, though, The OH in Ohio fails on multiple levels: From uneven writing to insulting character development; from unconvincing acting to an wildly erratic tone.
When we first meet her, Priscilla is an intelligent, professional, freakishly organized career woman. She bristles a bit at the repetitious elements of her work ("Do you know how many times I've typed this same letter?" "No, but you do."), but also truly loves what she does, working to persuade foreign companies to bring their business to her hometown of Cleveland, where the movie is set. As played by Parker Posey, she's also beautiful and engaging, with that little spark of extra energy that Posey finds almost impossible to suppress. Once she has her first orgasm, however, Priscilla is reduced to an incompetent, giggling ditz. The clear implication is that she was just too uptight to come before, and now that she's finally "relaxed," her brain has turned off, as well. It's the sort of mind-blowingly dated, cliched characterization that leaves you with your mouth hanging open in disbelief: Gone entirely are the professionalism and reliability; in their place are disinterest and confusion. After her first night with the magic vibrator (it's a running joke that she can't leave it alone, even for a second), Priscilla starts missing whole days of work for no reason, and finds herself suddenly unable to even pronounce the names of clients.
In addition to having to play a character who seems to have dropped out of 1960s Hollywood, Posey is also saddled with bizarre direction, and a story that requires her to spend two-thirds of the movie doing very little apart from giggling and trying to look adorable. (Really, one struggles to understand why she was cast in the first place -- if I wanted cute, warm, and pliable, the last door I would knock on would be Posey's.) There are moments, in fact, that are so artificial it seems first-time director Billy Kent is making a farce. For example, when the Chase's marriage counselor tells Priscilla that there is a simple solution to her problems, Posey's eager, surprised face is framed in close-up, and she says "Real-LY?!" with such an exaggerated curiosity that it can't possibly be anything but farce. The problem, of course, is that it is. There are multiple scenes -- many of them involving the very good Rudd -- that are serious and thoughtful enough to make it clear farce is the farthest thing from Kent's mind.
Interestingly, Kent's background is in advertising, and he feels his great strength as a director is his awareness that each scene must be clearly focused on a single laugh, or a single issue; perhaps the most awful, obvious moments (Like that "Real-LY?!," or the frequent, over-long reaction shots) are simply his way of really bringing those points home. Whatever his goal, however, Kent and screenwriter Adam Wierzbianski really seem out of their depth here. Posey suffers most from the weak writing and awkward direction, but Rudd and Danny DeVito, too, are often asked to behave in ways that are out-of-step with the tone the movie seems to be seeking.
De Vito, however, survives, and his Wayne the Pool Guy is actually the most fully-formed, appealing character in the movie. Thrown into a relationship with Priscilla (What better way to show that she's changed than have her fall for Danny DeVito? The laughs will never stop!), DeVito's Wayne has a sort of miraculous humanity to him. He's old enough to be completely unashamed of his looks, way of life and career (think Gary in Desperately Seeking Susan, except with pools instead of hot tubs), and wins Priscilla over with his utter lack of pretense. The fact that DeVito can maintain Wayne's dignity while being asked to act like a teenager in love -- complete with, yes, lots of giggling -- is an indication of the tremendous depth he brings to the character. When we find out that Wayne lost his wife more than a decade before and hasn't been in his outrageously luxurious pool since that day, there's real pain in DeVito's face, and we respond immediately to the emotions, and the pathos he brings to the character. No matter his surroundings (There's an emotional scene at the top of Wayne's giant water-slide that is almost impossible to watch because of the amateurish use of bluescreen.), or the words he has to say, DeVito is wonderful in the role; it's just too bad that he's stuck in the middle a mess like The OH in Ohio.