tue 20/02/2024

Easier With Practice | reviews, news & interviews

Easier With Practice

Easier With Practice

A titillating premise makes for a tender independent film

Davy (Brian Geraghty) struggles with the etiquette of phone sex

Easier with Practice is a film about phone sex based on a short story that appeared in GQ magazine. It’s enough to make any right-thinking filmgoer not in the Will Ferrell/Chuck Palahniuk/American Pie core demographic head for another screen – any other screen.

But peek under the covers of this indie debut from writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, a decorated hero of this year’s festival circuit, and you’ll find an unexpectedly tender meditation on intimacy – a film set to do for phone sex what 2007’s charming Lars and the Real Girl did for sex dolls.

Easier with Practice is a film about phone sex based on a short story that appeared in GQ magazine. It’s enough to make any right-thinking filmgoer not in the Will Ferrell/Chuck Palahniuk/American Pie core demographic head for another screen – any other screen. But peek under the covers of this indie debut from writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, a decorated hero of this year’s festival circuit, and you’ll find an unexpectedly tender meditation on intimacy – a film set to do for phone sex what 2007’s charming Lars and the Real Girl did for sex dolls.

Brothers Davy and Sean (Brian Geraghty, Kel O’Sullivan) are on a book tour around America, or they would be if that didn’t glamourise the motel-room sharing, meagre audiences and paper-covered collection of short stories (What People Do to Each Other) actually involved. Leaving their day jobs and Midwestern home town behind, the two are spending a summer pursuing Davy’s Salinger-inspired dream of a literary road trip, with Sean just keen to escape domestic routine and hook up with the more attractive of Davy’s handful of book groupies.

When a phonecall from a mysterious woman named Nicole catches Davy unawares, he finds himself in a bizarre relationship (“You’re the closest thing to a girlfriend I’ve ever had”), substituting the bullying intimacy of his brother for the X-rated company and confessional conversations of this elusive caller.

There’s little in this deftly paced tale to reveal the film’s short-story origins. At full length the focus shifts, placing less emphasis on the obligatory reveal, the closing turn of the narrative blade, and instead lingering over character – offered up in plenty by Geraghty’s (pictured below) delicate performance. Taking the edge off his rather too clamorous good looks with those cinematic staples of spectacles and imperfect teeth, he becomes a warm yet self-destructive misfit, awkward in his own company and disastrous in that of anyone else. Set against the leaner, meaner, more socially viable charms of Sean (a deliciously repugnant O’Sullivan), Davy struggles to claim his own space, whether in the motel rooms they share or in the attentions of the women they encounter.

26easierspan-1-articleLargeIt is this fraternal relationship that comes in for the closest scrutiny. Alvarez lingers over the swiftly familiar rituals, the conversational non-segues and shorthands. The implicit tensions between the brothers reach their climax in a charged game of Two Truths and a Lie on their return, where each finds himself invited to cash in the currency of their intimacy for the entertainment of their friends.

It’s not all psychological musings and elegant set pieces however. Inevitably there are some fairly confronting scenes; Davy’s initial encounter with Nicole, moving from introductions to orgasm in just a few minutes, is chronicled with long-shot detachment, refusing to cut away and lingering pointedly on for the inevitable silence that follows – the struggling conversational attempts to fill the gap that etiquette forgot to address. “Can’t we talk for a bit, you know – cuddle?” Yet by far the most painful encounters are those where emotion rather than sex takes the leading role. Without wishing to spoil the ending, Davy’s eventual face-to-face meeting with Nicole induces seat-clutching and eye-closing aplenty, and not for even remotely pornographic reasons.

easierwithpracticeLargely responsible for the polish and elegance of this first feature is David Morrison’s cinematography. Balancing the oppressive intimacy of motel rooms, work cubicles, car journey and Davy’s tiny apartment are the broad vistas and natural panoramas of the road trip. Moving from Hopper-esque, neon-lit, identikit diners (“Same city, different name”) to mountainous lakeside camping grounds, the spatial boundaries of Davy’s daily life mirror the more personal limits and limitations of his character, the road trip a catalyst for so much more than a few dirty-talking encounters.

There is a sincerity to this film, a refusal to titillate, manipulate or exploit its subject matter that renders it oddly and quietly potent. Although suffering from a few freshman nerves, the assured writing and intent mark Alvarez as a genuine new talent. Perhaps a little too brave for its own good however, I do wonder whether Easier with Practice will succeed in reaching beyond its aggressive premise to its intended audience. Teen sex-comedy fans should walk on past this one.

  • Easier With Practice is on UK release from 3 December
  • Find Lars and the Real Girl on Amazon

Watch the trailer for Easier with Practice:

Davy's eventual meeting with Nicole induces seat-clutching and eye-closing, and not for remotely pornographic reasons

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