It’s time to declare a moratorium on the tired rom-com stock character dichotomy. For too long, movies both independent and mainstream have relied on leads that fall into one of two types. The first is the average joe, the guy/gal who is grounded, hesitant in matters romantic, and often quietly artistic. These are usually, though not always, the protagonists of their stories. The average joe is supposed to be pleasant and relatable, but instead they are boring and too muted to possess any discernible personality. The other type is the partier, the spontaneous, fun-loving, and sex-driven dude/lady. You’ll mostly see them in supporting roles. The partier theoretically provides enjoyable comic relief to the proceedings, but instead they are obnoxious, their every overdone quip grating on the soul.
Love and Air Sex pushes this trend to its breaking point, featuring a pair of the boring and a pair of the obnoxious at the core of its supposedly romantic plot. Cathy (Ashley Bell) and Stan (Michael Stahl-David) are the boring ones. They are defined chiefly by their aspirations (Cathy wants to be a doctor, Stan a screenwriter) and the fact that they are In Love (TM). Why they are in love is unclear – the film’s first sequence shows their first date, then fast-forwards through a whirlwind romance right up until it’s broken by their inability to maintain a long-distance relationship. They both move away from their hometown of Austin in pursuit of their goals, Stan to LA and Cathy to New York. After the opening, the two spend the entire movie not interacting with each other, which means that the audience’s investment in this romance rests entirely on that one montage. Needless to say, it isn’t enough.
Jeff (Zach Cregger) and Kara (Sara Paxton) are the obnoxious couple. Best friends with Stan and Cathy, they drive much of the story through their determination to get drunk, get laid, etc etc. Their matching up at least makes some sense, in that they share the madness of behavior driven by script-mandated illogicality. Paxton manages to steal the movie out from the rest of the cast, shading Kara with enough pathos and nuance to make her feel like she exists in some neighborhood close to that of human beings. Jeff, though, is downright odious. It’s kind of ballsy that the film asks the viewer to sympathize with a guy who expounds on the virtues of negging with his pals. Pity he doesn’t earn an ounce of sympathy. Cregger, best known as part of the bro-beloved comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know, exemplifies the film’s brand of lazy raunch humor.
The plot, such as it is, kicks off when Stan sees that Cathy is going back to Austin for a weekend, and immediately books a flight back as well in the hopes of “running into” her. This is the latest in a long line of actions on the part of rom-com leading men which are meant to be cute but are actually spectacularly creepy. Once home, they learn that Jeff and Kara have broken up, and the various players spend the weekend getting into shenanigans on the club scene.
Oh, and of course there is air sex. Stan and Cathy’s visit coincides with the finals of an air sex competition. The participants mime all manner of erotic maneuvers before raucous, drunken Alamo Drafthouse patrons. Jeff is venting his heartbreak by performing in the competition, using the stage name “Fuckasaurus Sex” (charming). One might go into this film with the impression that air sex would form a basis for the plot, with the main character perhaps going through some sort of Karate Kid-esque training in the “art.” That would certainly be more interesting than what we ended up with, which sees air sex as almost entirely superfluous to the story, save serving as a cheap vector for reconciliation between two characters in the climax.
Love and Air Sex has little of the former and a lot less of the latter than that name would imply. It alternates between boredom and unpleasantness, just as it swings between the dull half and the obnoxious half of its main characters. I patiently await a movie about air sex that’s really about air sex, because that at least has some entertainment potential.
The Upside: Paxton occasionally brightens the proceedings
The Downside: Not funny, interesting, or particularly likable
On the Side: The movie has a better title than it once did although “The Bounceback” fits more with the rest of the movie’s supremely generic nature.