Reel Sex: The Allure of New York

New York City is covered in romantic qualities. Be them personal experiences romping through the city in the middle of the night with a cute boy you met on the elevator, absorbing yourself in a different culture around every corner, or because you just straight up watch too many films without having ever visited one of the five boroughs. New York is a city of dreams, schemers, and downtrodden, but each person who experiences the island knows the pull and excitement of this crazy-making place.

Otherwise, there wouldn’t be films and shows where Manhattan is featured as prominently as any actor or actress on screen. The fantasy of New York is more than just Times Square and Central Park, it’s feeling like you belong there. Film fills that gaping hole in the hearts of those who cannot live in the city, but who want to explore the possibility. You (rightfully so) can’t have sex in the back of a cab, but that’s okay because Sex and the City has you covered. You can also feel like you’re canoodling on a park bench at 1 AM while watching About Last Night. It’s quite possible most people have some sort of big city public sex item on their Fuck-It List, and most of those ideas come from the films we’ve watched.

Sex and the NYC Elite

Woody Allen has made his career exploring the neurosis of the Manhattan Man, be them from a pending mid-life crisis, an inability to relate to or satisfy women, or just regretting the decisions the MM has made up to the time line of the film. Allen’s Manhattan Man needs to be handled with kid gloves, but doesn’t want to know everyone around him is either ignoring or coddling him. He represents an entire group of rich men on either side of Central Park who just feel dissatisfied with their current situation. So, of course, sex with these men (and the mouthy women they tend to take up with) leaves a little more than to be desired.

Allen’s 1986 Hannah and Her Sisters doesn’t feature a lot of bedroom scenes, but the entire film is about fidelity, wife swapping, and self-recognition through penetration. Rich people have such problems, and one of those problems, according to Allen, is realizing one morning that they are either going to have sex with the same person forever or never have sex with that person again. Hannah (Mia Farrow) is contently married to Elliot (Michael Caine), who it turns out doesn’t feel as content as his wife. Elliot takes up with Hannah’s sister Lee (Barbara Hershey), who it turns out feels just as disappointed with her current relationship as Elliot feels with Hannah. He needs to feel cherished and adored by someone, as his wife puts so much of her focus on her other sister Holly (Diane West), who’s poor decisions and failing career keep Hannah occupied from confronting or even noticing the affair going on behind her back.

While the film closes with the end of the Elliot and Lee’s affair and the three sisters happy in their current or new relationships, the suggestion that sex is fluid resonates today. Allen makes films for his audience who recognize the landmarks and the people within, but for someone outside of NYC, these characters are also the highest of fantasy.  New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers alike salivate over these people who have money, success, and nice apartments, but also have deep problems. Some of us may want to cheat on our wife with her sexy, enticing sister, but at the end of the day happiness comes through recognizing stability is better than chaos.

Suburban Yuppie Sex

But, for those who don’t recognize the good thing they have right in front of them and continue down that dark path of infidelity and delicious kinky sex, forgiveness and safety isn’t always waiting at the end. Just ask Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) whose tryst with artist Paul (Olivier Martinez) caused her husband Ed (Richard Gere) to infatuate so heavily on his wife’s infidelity that he killed Paul and tried to hide the body. Adrian Lyne’s 2002 homage to 1990s sexual thrillers, Unfaithful, was marketed as one of the sexiest and intense thrillers to date (that should have given it away how tame it would actually be), exploring the ramifications of a woman’s affair and her husband’s consequential break down.

I’m not going to lie, I wanted this film to be a lot spicier than it actually was, but it did succeed at presenting NYC as a den of delight. Connie travels into the city for her sexy time, leaving her adoring husband behind to tend to their child, and engages in a life-changing affair. From her first passionate alleyway kissing, to fucking in a bathroom stall (gross and awkward), to sex on the wet floor of his art studio, Connie explores every facet of her sexual desires. NYC is her sexual Mecca, where she discovers more about herself and enters, tamely, into a secret world of disrepute. She is punished for her sexual awakening not with her own death, but with the death of her lover and the imprisonment of her husband. New York gaveth and New York tooketh away.

Passion for One Night

Finally, New York presents more than just a place for rich people affairs, sexual journeys, and mayhem, it is also a place where young people search out the loves of their lives. New York, I Love You tells ten short stories about such wandering souls, and their constant struggle to find love in a city of so many other lost souls. Some of them succeed, some of them fail, and two of them in particular try to change their normal non-committal ways. In the vignette “Allen Hughes” Lydia (Drea de Matteo) and Gus (Bradley Cooper) meet at a bar. Shot through a variety of flashbacks and jump cuts, the couple share an intense cab ride home where internally they promise themselves to “call the next day” or “let him actually sleep over this time” or “try not to fall in love in the morning.” Back at the apartment, their sex scene is rife with chemistry and tingle-enducing pleasure for both the romantics watching and the two engaging in orgasms.

This couple belongs together for that time, but is there a possibility that they can find more with each other once the sun comes up? Ultimately this couple ignores the warnings of the NYC Elite and the Suburban yuppies, who found love in the city but lost it along the way, and chose to go down a path of more than just sex and the City.

Get your mind out of the gutter and read more Reel Sex

While Gwen Reyes has only briefly been a film critic and columnist, she's long been telling people what movies they should drop dollars on, regardless if they are listening to her or not. Based out of Dallas, she wants to live the dream by watching movies all day and drinking vodka gimlets all night. She graduated from Sweet Briar College with a surprisingly handy degree in Philosophy and Film Studies--it explains why she spends so much time analyzing the murderers in sexual thrillers (yes, dear reader, that's her excuse!)--and she loves anything to do with gnomes, pot-bellied pigs, and beards. But most importantly, Gwen likes movies about sad people, funny people, naked people, and bearded people.

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