As many fellow conflicted yet faithful Netflix subscribers know, last week marked the beginning of the separation of Instant and disc-only memberships. I had been trying to whittle down my streaming queue for a few months, but we all know that is a nearly impossible task with that devilish recommendation list appearing every time you go to the site’s homepage. Suffice it to say, my queue had actually grown since the announcement, making the budgeting decision for me.

One of the films at the top of my queue was 2010’s long-awaited gay love story I love You Phillip Morris starring the forever not-sexy Jim Carrey and the always delicious Ewan McGregor as two convicts head-over-heels in love with each other. I could spend an entire column writing about this rapid, surprisingly honest and tender romance sprinkled with deception and humor, however my greatest take away from this man on man sexiness was the unexpectedly hot chemistry (and subsequent love scenes) between Carrey and McGregor.

Now, McGregor is no novice to playing gay roles as he’s both Scottish and rarely shies away from a character challenge. Carrey on the other hand, has proven himself a charming dramatic actor in both The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, but until Phillip Morris he hadn’t played so completely against type. During the early stages of their relationship, Texas prisoners Steven (Carrey) and Phillip’s (McGregor) drawn out courtship via letters leads to a simmering tension. When they are reunited as prison roommates they get right down to brass tacks. Their love for each other has boiled over and Phillip goes to work on servicing his new lover. This scene, while played almost entirely for humor once the sexing begins, was remarkable for the true to life depiction of two sexually charged adults who just couldn’t wait to get their clothes off and down to the good stuff. It was a “leg-crossing” moment for sure, and made the rest of Steven’s over the top antics as he attempted to keep the relationship alive bearable. It also made me want to watch more prison movies.

This all got me thinking about other films with unexpectedly sexy moments. It goes without saying that sex in a film is often proportional amounts of audience stimulation, gratuitous boob shots, and sometimes (if we’re lucky) pertinent to the story. While all sex scenes are choreographed before one frame is shot, the ones with a voyeuristic gaze or a shroud of love-dovey feelings often affect an audience more personally than, say, something found in Vice Academy 3. What makes for a good surprisingly sexy scene is both the shock of the moment and the chemistry between the two actors. It’s nearly impossible to highlight every surprisingly hot sex scene, but a little sampling to get us started never hurt anyone (although there are a few spoilers).

Quills (2000)

The Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) wrote some of the most salacious erotic stories for mass consumption during his 18th century lifetime. It’s not really shocking that a film about that life would weave sexual promiscuity with the man’s battle against Napoleon and his eventual madness. But what was shocking was just how freely this erotic drama exposed sex in both a depressing mental institution and at the home of the institution’s charge Dr. Royer Collard (Michael Caine). The unfair doctor literally buys young Simone (Amelia Warner) from some French nuns, takes her home as a wife with expectations to pleasure her new husband whenever and wherever he chooses. The girl doesn’t take so well to her new master, but she does take well to The Marquis’s stories and to the hired architect Prouix (Stephen Moyer) working in the couple’s house. In a pivotal, sexual exposing scene the camera cuts to Prouix’s twisted face. He is in the midst of an intense orgasm brought on by the impish Simone currently kneeling between his legs. When the camera finally cuts to Simone’s pleased face she intentionally sweeps away reminders of the moment from her lips and smiles up at her sated lover for approval.

Such a throw away moment, but anyone who watches True Blood can confirm the captivating quality of Moyer, and paired with Warner, the growing tension between the two allows this unremarkable act to appear completely sensual and even naughty on screen.

Orphan (2009)

A film about a middle-aged woman trapped in the body of a young child should absolutely NOT stir sexual longing, however no one told director Jaume Collet-Serra that when he put Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard together in Orphan. Lucky for all of us the sexy-sexy scene is between two consenting adults and does not include the woman-child. Married couple Kate (Farmiga) and John (Sarsgaard) adopt the seemingly sweet Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), offering her the life of her dreams. One night, after the couple puts both their children to bed, they sneak down to the kitchen to close up the house for the night. As does happen when two people see cold marble counter tops, Kate ends up bent over the kitchen island with John behind her. The camera stays pinned to the couple, inviting us to enjoy their little intimate moment before it is of course interrupted by the creepy Esther who is watching from the house’s shadows. The moments we spend with Kate and John during this scene are conflictingly sensual and weird, because there is a kid watching. But in a way the fear of getting caught makes it even hotter.

Irreversible (2002)

These last two offerings almost didn’t make the list. Not because they don’t match the requirements of being unexpectedly arousing, as they both feature notorious sex scenes with creepy-sexy actors. They almost got nixed due to their use of sex as violence, which is never sexy. Irreversible features one of the most vile rape scenes ever committed to film, but as the film is told backwards from two horrific attacks ending in a tender love scene between Alex (Monica Bellucci) and Marcus (Vincent Cassel) it doesn’t feel so bad finding solace in the bittersweetness of the film’s final minutes. The earlier (later?) tragedy we saw unfold has time to settle in our brains, allowing us a solitary moment with the couple we’ve been rooting for the entire journey. When they embrace, Cassel’s real love for Bellucci apparent from the get-go, we almost forget that this story doesn’t end as happily as this leads us to believe. Alex possibly loses the baby the couple readily anticipates after her brutal subway attack, and Marcus will most likely spend his life in jail for murdering the assailant in front of a club full of witness. But, alas for this one brief moment we can feel their desire and passion.

A History of Violence (2005)

Meanwhile, David Cronenberg’s quietly eerie A History of Violence is typical Cronenberg. He finds joy in attracting us to what should repel us, while always providing varying levels of sexual excitement in both his actors and his audience. Unlike the rape scene in Irreversible, Cronenberg sexualizes domestic rape as Tom (Viggo Mortensen) pushes his wife Edie (Maria Bello) to a breaking point on the couple’s staircase. He forces himself inside her, despite her repeated physical pushes and her announcements of hatred towards Tom, damaging both her body and her spirit. As a woman, this scene is undeniably rape, however the power and passion between the couple still sits right on the surface. She does not want him near her, but she still accepts him once he’s there. Maybe it’s her victim’s instinct or maybe she all of a sudden got “into it,” but either way her wrecked body seems to both love and despise this man.

This scene is both rape and not rape, both love and not love. It highlights the unmanageable dichotomy often found when betrayal and sexual connection collide, and the equally irrational turn from love to hate and back again. And while it should leave a foul taste in anyone’s mouth, the realism, the genuine scraping of lust, passion, hatred, and anger against the hidden diamond of love between Tom and Edie makes this scene sensual in only a way Cronenberg understands we want.

Expect the unexpected with more Reel Sex


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