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{Poster: characters pictured on condom packets} Relax... It's Just Sex
Directed by P.J. Castellaneta
Starring Mitchel Anderson, Jennifer Tilly, Lori Petty, Cynda Williams, and others
Distributed by Mongrel Media
Now playing
Review by Michael Cottrell

I had the program for the 1999 Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and boyfriend sent me an email of his choices of viewing and times, otherwise known as "the schedule". I was instructed to go through my program and pick what films I wanted, then we could coordinate which once we would be seeing together.

"Now if I tell you a secret you must promise not to tell anyone", but I picked my films based on what boyfriend was seeing.

When I saw that he picked the P.J. Castellaneta film "Relax...It's Just Sex", I had to weigh the pros and cons. Do I sit through yet another American (read Hollywood) film in a gay genre with non gay identified key actors and endure the film just to be with boyfriend?

OK, so I picked this film for the wrong reason, but thank the fairies I did!

{A close-knit group of friends attends a solemn ceremony} Relax...It's Just Sex, stars Mitchel Anderson, T.C. Carson, Lori Petty (Tank Girl), Serena Scott Thomas, Jennifer Tilly (Bound), Cynda Williams (remember her? Tales of the City), Billy Wirth (Boys on the Side). Relax... is about people, and each actor brings a powerful image and performance to the screen. Each person intertwines their life with another and another and another. Gay or straight, fag or hag, everyone is realistically connected.

Relax... is provocative. From the moment the first scene opens you are provoked to think, to see, to experience. This energy is carried right through to the end of the film.

Relax... offered me many many scenes to laugh at, to cry at, and to simply remember. The most powerful scene for me... OK, I am about to give away a little tidbit of the movie, so stop reading if you don't want to know... the most powerful scene for me was when Vincey and Javi go off to relieve themselves in the alley, excusing themselves from the rest of the group. While separated the two are gay bashed. The scene swiftly changes when help from the rest of the group arrives. Vincey, who was about to be penetrated by a beer bottle, holds the basher in his grip, drops the basher's pants. Vincey spits on his palms, reaches, and whispers, "relax it is just sex".

{Mitchel Anderson as Vincey} We have come a long way from gay characters being only the victim. Vincey has the power and he rapes the basher. I am not one to promote violence of any kind but it felt good, damn good to see a strong gay character hold onto his power. OK, so it is vigilante justice, but it is a movie!

Equally powerful is the character of Robin. Robin has no airs about her. She is what she is, a dyke. A dyke that you could pass off as your little brother at a church picnic if you were so inclined to go. Robin holds true to herself right to the end.

{Jennifer Tilly as Tarra} No one can ever forget the drama queen par excellence, the supreme fag hag, Tarra Ricotto. The kitchen scene between Tarra and her hunky boyfriend Gus gives a whole new meaning to "clearing the counter"!

Castellaneta's film is about the depth of friendship, gay and straight, in the good times and the bad times. The other parts? Relax... it's just sex.

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