Sex and Breakfast starts with one couple trying to get in the mood by watching an amateur video sex tape of themselves, and a second couple discussing how often they each engage in masturbation. These are tantalizing threads. They pricked up my ears. This was a subject I've not seen from a Hollywood film before -- young couples in their early twenties acting as adults and hoping for long-term commitment, fighting the good relationship fight against hormones and the need to reach out beyond a standard, committed coupling.
The film stars Macaulay Culkin and Alexis Dziena as couple number one, James and Heather, as well as Kuno Becker and Eliza Dushku as couple number two, Ellis and Renee. Both couples are struggling to keep their very young relationships together and act like adults while (you would imagine) their hormones are raging and the need to feel positive physical contact is as important, more important even, as the next paycheck. The characters are all played by talented actors, all four of whom have their own time in the spotlight to play or chew on a scene.
The script insinuates that it has a unique take on young relationships that unfortunately crawls toward a semi-conclusion that settles slowly on one scene of partner-swapping between couples one and two that turns out to be, more or less, sequences that feel screened by censors from 1970's daytime soap operas. Before and after that scene, there is squabbling, bickering, and oddball brow-furrowing, such as an apartment break-in by Culkin where a neighbor catches him and asks him directly if he is a murderer and whether he plans to kill her, before letting him go on his merry way. If she was flirting with him, I didn't really catch it. If she wasn't, she didn't act nearly ditzy enough for that particular moment.
There are many (too many) brow-furrowing moments just like this. I wanted to like these characters, laugh with these characters, and most of all, understand their struggles - with their young relationships and all the barbs that entails. As it stands, I felt more confused about who they were or what they wanted at the end than at the beginning. As an example of the confusion I felt during and after the film, it is unclear what type of jobs any of these characters have. All of their apartments are nice, but does James support Heather? Where does Ellis work? Is Ellis a trust fund expat or a male nurse at the local retirement home? Are they afraid to be alone for financial reasons or is it simply the need to hold onto the one person they have right in front of them?
For a film that focuses so directly on two relationships, I wanted to dig as deeply into their lives as possible. Did I miss the subtle cues? Did I not catch references to their deeper lives? Maybe my relationship with this film is as confused as the characters are in the film. For all four of these talented actors, especially Culkin, this film felt like a safe project that should have been so dangerous and exciting that it needed a safe word.