Review: Never Again

Finally, American Pie for adults.

Never Again
Photo: USA Films

Finally, American Pie for adults. Christopher (Jeffrey Tambor) can’t get it up so he’s easily led to believe that he might like to get it from other men. Best friend and fellow jazzman Earl (Bill Duke) thinks Christopher can do without the “chicks with dicks.” Christopher walks into a gay bar and is inexplicably hit on by the most attractive man in the room. More troubling: Christopher’s potential midnight cowboy also likes to mince words (anyone who knows what “I’d like to push you all the way to San Diego” means should e-mail Slant Magazine for your chance to win a date with your favorite back-alley transvestite!) Rejected for assuming that a stud willing to swap saliva with a 54-year-old overweight divorcee might actually like to give him head, Christopher mistakes Grace (Jill Clayburgh) for a transsexual. He says, “How big is your dick?” She eats it up. And why not? It’s all in a good night’s fun at your local New York City gay bar. Eric Schaeffer’s latest wears its mantra on its sleeve: something about never saying Never Again. Soon after Schaeffer leaves the gay ghetto behind, the film reveals itself as the kind of blasé middle-aged romance that needs the hardcore rhetoric to quell its stilted aesthetic. More troubling than Schaeffer’s questionable use of a gay bar as a vehicle for hetero-happiness is his vulgar, sexist take on the middle-aged female. We know Barbra Streisand misses James Brolin when she goes to sleep at night (click here for video from that ghoulish Barbara Walters special!) but who says “hi” to their lover when they wake up in the morning? Certainly not the same woman with an unexplained fondness for sexual asphyxiation, strap-ons and butt plugs. Have we learned nothing from When Harry Met Sally? A liberated woman does not let the world hear her cum. Sure, Never Again may be glib and burdened by self-reference but it’s also frequently funny. But what happens when Clayburgh takes off the strap-on and Tambor puts away his “talking points”? When Schaeffer leaves the raunch and kink behind, Never Again begins to resemble something not unlike Streisand and Brolin contemplating whether talking on the telephone is more life-affirming than buying anal beads. Now that’s fucking scary.

 Cast: Jeffrey Tambor, Jill Clayburgh, Bill Duke, Caroline Aaron, Eric Axen, Michael McKean, Sandy Duncan  Director: Eric Schaeffer  Screenwriter: Eric Schaeffer  Distributor: USA Films  Running Time: 97 min  Rating: R  Year: 2002  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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