I took on this movie-reviewing gig for a few reasons: there is so much junk out there; I wanted to save people from wasting their time and money, and I wanted to share my love for film. Film arts can be one of the most affecting media for enlightenment, education, cross-cultural understanding, political action, and for that little buzz of joy you get when you experience a brilliant work of art.
Anyone who has heard my reviews lately knows I am drawn to serious and heavy issues, like "The War Tapes" about the Iraq Invasion, and "Long Night’s Journey Into Day," about the post-apartheid South African Truth and Reconciliation Council. Although I thrive on social issues docs, and dramas, I also know that comedy can cut through to the deepest truths through the complex medium of humor. I was jonesing for a good comedy, so "The Oh in Ohio" sounded like the perfect fix. I entered the screening room with great anticipation.
The "Oh" in "The Oh in Ohio" is referring to a woman’s ultimate satisfaction. Pricilla Chase - Parker Posey - is the chirpy, suburban professional chamber of commerce marketer from Cleveland who has never achieved the big O, even though she’s been married to Jack (Paul Rudd) for a decade. She is driven at work and oblivious to anything lacking in her sensual life. At the same time, Jack shows signs of ennui and defeat, and feels deprived.
After a cliché marital therapy session, Pricilla discovers mechanical aids, and, after being deprived all her life, becomes addicted to the things. Liza Minelli has a lot of fun in her cameo role as a sex guru, but the handheld mirror scene has been done before. Jack enters into a sexual relationship with his high school student, Kristen, played listlessly by Mischa Barton. Jack’s character arch amounts to appearing more groomed and wanting to return to his wife after he sees that a toy can do better than he did. Meanwhile, Pricilla meets Wayne, played by Danny DeVito and finds sensual love with him.
The humor and storyline are uneven. Danny DeVito and Parker Posey seem to be in two different movies. DeVito’s Wayne is a layered character with depth, and warmth, and is actually believable as the cuddly decades older beau with mojo. DeVito brings verve to the screen with both humor and sensitivity. Posey’s Pricilla is more like a caricature of a giddy girl.
There are some mildly funny moments, but much of the time the gags are predictable, and hackneyed, and I became irritated. The premise was a good idea, but the film lost it’s way right after it opened.
Getting back to the little detail of the high school teacher sleeping with his student, Mischa Barton’s Kristen. She is portrayed as a pushy vixen, which is supposed to make us feel the teacher’s act is justified. It is always highly unethical for a teacher to have a sexual relationship with a student, even if the student is over 18, and close to the teacher’s age. (As a researcher, therapist, and writer on sexual assault issues, I can say there are a lot of good reasons it is unethical; the power differential, for starters.)
If this film wasn’t already soured because of the uneven humor, unbelievable, over-the-top acting, and disjointed story, the depiction of the teacher's unethical behavior with his student, at which we’re supposed to wink, made it unbearable.
For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.
Air date: 7/12/06
© 2006 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 7/12/06
The Oh in Ohio
88 minutes; Directed by Billy Kent; Actors: Danny Devito, Parker Posey, Paul Rudd, Liza Minnelli, Mischa Barton