CineMarterHow to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town - Shock, Scandal, and Awe
Directed and written by Jeremy LaLonde. Produced by Chris Bennett and Jordan Walker. Release date: May 13, 2016.
I've never heard anything good about growing up in a small town. Everyone knows everyone else - including being far too aware of every little issue that they all have - there's often very little to do, and if you don't fit into the town norm, well, you're not going to be very happy until you get outta dodge. Returning, particularly if you were an outcast, is unfathomable. It shouldn't surprise you too much to learn that this is exactly what happens in How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town.
Cassie (Jewel Staite) was run out of town as a teenager, slut shamed to the point where she could no longer remain - even though all of the name-calling stemmed from one embarrassing incident that didn't even lead to intercourse. She moved to the big city, became a sex columnist, and made some pretty prudish comments toward her birthplace. Now she's back, for reasons that ultimately don't matter. More importantly, her return shakes up some of the more repressed residents - leading them to convince her to plan an orgy. Oh, and this is a comedy.
It's important to note that it's a comedy, because this material could be played straight or lewd and still make its points, but it's most successful when played for laughs. It's an awkward indie comedy and, therefore, laughter is the best way one can get through it. The characters are often five seconds away from laughing, too, since it's all so ridiculous. We relate to them strongly because of that joint feeling. Besides, the movie's not really about the sex, anyway - it's more about social anxiety and acceptance. Keeping a light tone makes it easier to watch - and for the characters, to get through.
The plot seems like it should be rife with slapstick humor. There's certainly some of that. There are a few raunchy laughs, too. It's more similar to Zack and Miri Make a Porno, though, in the sense that the title is provocative but the movie itself really isn't. Director Jeremy Lalonde's own Sex After Kids is another good example. There's a big beating heart underneath this one, and it's kind of hard not to really enjoy watching all of these oddball characters come together in an attempt to achieve a goal. Even if that goal is an uncomfortable orgy that some claim they don't even want even though, deep down, maybe they do.
When it comes to movies with titillating titles, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town is one of the better ones.
How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town has a strong but not immediately recognizable cast - the characters of each get one or two big character traits that they hope to work out at the orgy. Jewel Staite, Ennis Esmer, Lauren Lee Smith, Jonas Chernick, Katharine Isabelle, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Gugun Deep Singh, James McGowan - among others - all play important roles. They all get laughs; nobody's left out of the absurdity.
Where How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town falters is in some of its plot details, like the rom-com main story involving Cassie and a former crush that, as soon as you see an early scene, you'll know exactly how it ends. Many of the characters, while funny, don't have a lot of depth to them, and a couple of their issues or subplots aren't given much of a climax. As is the case with all comedies, many of the jokes don't land - and some of them only do if you watch it with an audience of equally awkward-feeling participants. The last part is unlikely to happen, though, as this is a film with a limited and VOD release; the chance you see it with a large audience is low. It works well enough otherwise, but it does benefit from the theatrical experience.
When it comes to movies with titillating titles, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town is one of the better ones. It deals with its strong themes of acceptance, social anxiety, and self-love better than it needed to, it gets a great cast together, it keeps things light with its sense of humor, and it is often very funny. It's not raunchy. It doesn't contain lofty goals. It's here to make you laugh, make you think a little more progressively and less judgmentally, and reconsider your own views toward more than a couple of things.
Bottom Line: Funny and awkward, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town is a good movie.
Recommendation: If you can, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town at the cinema. If not, settle for a VOD rental.
If you want more of Matthew "Marter" Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet.