Of all of this year’s directors making their feature film debut, Josh Lawson has arguably the highest profile. Not only is he a respected comedian making us all piss our pants in home-grown shows like Thank God You’re Here and Kinne, he’s also made an impression overseas starring opposite Don Cheadle in House of Cards – whoops, I mean House of Lies – and as a Rupert Murdoch inspired media mogul in Anchorman 2.
There’s no doubt Lawson’s high-profile will translate into some box office success for The Little Death and audiences should be thankful his star power has brought the year’s first real comedy to cinemas – but is it any good?
It has a delightfully simple premise that explores the taboo subject of sexual fantasies from the bizarre to the controversial. For instance there’s Maeve (Bojana Novakovic) who wants to be raped unsuspectingly but only by her partner Paul (Josh Lawson), Rowena (Kate Box) who prefers her boyfriend Richard (Patrick Brammall) to be crying while they’re rooting and Phil (Alan Dukes) who’s happiest in his abysmal marriage only when his miserable wife Maureen (Lisa McCune) is asleep.
Each member of The Little Death’s incredibly talented cast turn in genuinely hilarious performances, especially Damon Herriman who takes roleplaying way too literally, but the problem with the film lies in Lawson’s script. He’s written some genuinly funny laughs but the moments in between are drawn out and very ordinary.
Australian cinema desperately needs a great R18+ film and The Little Death almost succeeds at filling that void. Instead, Lawson plays it way too safe and rarely pushes any boundaries. There’s not a tit, dick or fanny in sight as each character shags their way through a narrative that quickly becomes very monotonous.
Come the final act we’re forced to sit through a threesome between a deaf graphic novelist, his translator and a sex worker that seems to go forever. Just when you feel like the film is on its vinegar stroke you’re interrupted by a strange and unexpectedly dark turn that feels like it’s been lifted from another movie.
The Little Death is sure to get you thinking about your own sexual fantasies and fetishes and may even stimulate some interesting conversations between friends, but hopefully you have a little more fun reaching climax than what’s on offer here.
The Little Death: 3.5/5
Directed by: Josh Lawson
Staring: Bojana Novakovic, Josh Lawson, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall, Alan Dukes, Lisa McCune and Damon Herriman
Review by: Matthew Eeles