wed 17/10/2018

The Bisexual, Channel 4 review - joyless comedy drama | reviews, news & interviews

The Bisexual, Channel 4 review - joyless comedy drama

The Bisexual, Channel 4 review - joyless comedy drama

No taboos broken here

Maxine Peake and Desiree Akhavan as long-term lovers Sadie and Leila

Write about what you know, every nascent novelist is told. So you can't fault writer/director/actor Desiree Akhavan, Iranian-American creator of Appropriate Behaviour (2015) and The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018), which explore divergent sexuality and who has now written (with Cecilia Frugiuele), directs and stars in The Bisexual – about a lesbian woman who decides she wants to try out men for the first time.

Akhavan is Leila, a lesbian in a 10-year relationship with Sadie (Maxine Peake), who is also her business partner in a fashion company. Their romance hits a snag when Sadie asks Leila to marry her, and Leila freaks out. She decides to take time out to consider her options – which, as any fan of sitcoms will know, is never a good thing. Do they not remember Ross and Rachel in Friends?

So, inexplicably, considering she is rather well off, Leila moves into a grotty flatshare with loser Gabe (Brian Gleeson), an Irish man-child whose sister has to come and clean the flat so Leila can move in. He's a vaguely successful author whose self-worth is in inverse proportion to his literary judgment – “She's not untalented,” he loftily allows of Zadie Smith.

As a straight guy, though, he is mightily interested in Leila's sex life and eagerly accepts her – again inexplicable – invitation to accompany her to a lesbian club, where she and her friends bang on about their past relationships while he is eager to engage them in a discussion about how true to real life the film Blue Is the Warmest Colour is.

By the end of the night, Leila is having a disastrous one-night stand with a guy she met at the club. Is it possible that what prevented her saying yes to Sadie was a hitherto undiscovered love of cock? Who knows? And on the evidence of this lacklustre episode filed with unsympathetic characters delivering clangingly unfunny lines, who cares?

According to Akhavan, bisexuality is “the last taboo”, but there are any number of major bisexual characters in US and UK dramas – take your pick from Dynasty, LA Law, Glee, The Good Wife, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, The Fall, Killing Eve, and several more.

There is nobody in The Bisexual whom one is, er, rooting for. The characters are all cynical and emotionally detached, and apart from the occasional good line – bisexuals are regarded with suspicion by lesbians as “sex tourists” – there's no fun here, still less any sense of casual sexual hook-ups being an uncomplicated pleasure.

The main takeaway from the first episode is that lesbians always have sex with their knickers on (soft porn for straight men this ain't) while it tried hard to dispel the myth that bisexuals are having it all or are eternally searching for threesomes. As one lesbian character said witheringly: “Bisexuality is a myth invented by ad executives to sell flavoured vodka.” Amusing but, blimey, this was a joyless half hour.

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