It’s just hoping you won’t notice its generic writing and mediocre performances if it throws a lot of soft porn scenes and heaving breathing at you.
And the series loves a sex scene bathed in purple and pink hues as characters slam each other against a wall, insatiable lust in their eyes. Because ultraviolet light is sexy – OK?
Well, Sex/Life is about as sexy as running a UV wand through a cheap motel room that hasn’t changed its mattress in seven years.
It may very well win over audiences that voraciously ate up 365 Days, streaming it again and again to indulge that curiosity for kink they only acknowledge when a mainstream movie or TV project like the 50 Shades series deems it acceptable.
Sex/Life stars Adam Demos and Sarah Shahi. Picture: Amanda Matlovich/NetflixSource:Supplied
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Not that Sex/Life is as aggressive as either 365 Days or 50 Shades of Grey given it’s not BDSM heavy nor does it have those thorny, charged power dynamics. And, really, if you’re yearning for an erotic movie that plays in the same sandbox but with nuance and a story, you can’t go past Steven Shainberg’s Secretary, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader.
Of course, conventional wisdom says that no one is watching porn for the storyline, but if you’re masquerading as a Netflix drama with a narrative and characters with motivations rather than some RedTube video, it needs to be held to a higher standard.
Sex/Life tries. Of course it does. It’s giving it a red hot go to be a story about sexual frustration, passion, and regret.
It’s just really light on actual passion, but that’s not for lack of sex scenes. There are plenty of (sometimes literally) steamy, provocative sex scenes. Too many. And that’s not moralising or some prudish aversion, it’s that Sex/Life cycles through so many amorous encounters that it’s repetitive and interchangeable.
The seventh flashback to sex in a nightclub starts to play like the six that came before it – gyrations and heads tilted back moaning heavily isn’t that hot when you saw it three minutes ago, and three minutes before that.
The classification warning is of “high impact sex scenes” but there’s very little impact after a while.
Lots of heavy breathing in Sex/Life. Picture: Amanda Matlovich/NetflixSource:Supplied
The series is centred on Billie (Sarah Shahi), a former NYC wild girl turned suburban housewife. She married the nice, stable, and responsible Cooper (Mike Vogel) eight years ago, moved to a white-clad house and bore him two kids – one of them a baby and the other really annoying.
She feels like the passion has vanished out of her marriage. More significantly, she starts to feel like she’s losing herself, as if she’s a watered-down version of who she used to be.
So, she starts fantasising about ex-boyfriend Brad (Adam Demos), an Australian record producer with whom she used to have incredible sex. She starts writing about their erotic exploits in a word document journal that her husband finds.
Cooper begins using it as an instruction manual to spice up their marriage, but their problems are more than just a little limpness in the bedroom. Then Billie is thrown into an even bigger spin when she runs into Brad eight years after their rough break-up.
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Billie wonders if her suburban life with her boy scout husband was a mistake. Picture: Amanda Matlovich/NetflixSource:Supplied
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Created by Stacy Rukeyser (UnReal, One Tree Hill) and directed by a roster of female filmmakers including Jessika Borsiczky and Patricia Rozema, there is a female gaze at work in Sex/Life in that it is the men whose rock-hard bodies are objectified. Shahi might be frequently topless, but it’s Demos who goes full-frontal nude.
There’s emphasis on Billie’s emotional response at every given moment – there’s a voiceover that never seems to turn off – but it works against the series because the writing is so terrible and clunky. Your eyes will not stop rolling at how awful the dialogue is – it’s laughable.
Loads of steamy scenes – too many to be sexy. Picture: Amanda Matlovich/NetflixSource:Supplied
Lines such as “I want our souls to find each other as soon as possible but I just also want him to f**k my brains out” or “interconnected love bubble rush” overrides anything meaningful Sex/Life might have to say about women’s sexual appetites without judgment.
It’s like bad fan fiction, or some horny housewife’s journal. Yes, that’s who the character is, but the rules for TV writing isn’t strictly aiming for realism on that count.
The series is also way too long at eight episodes, suffering from ever diminishing returns as it goes on.
While Shahi is actually pretty good in this and mostly carries off the heavier emotional scenes, you can’t say the same about her co-stars, some of whom deliver their lines with all the zeal of reciting the ingredients on a packet of cereal.
And there is nothing sexy about that.
Sex/Life is streaming now on Netflix
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