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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2002

'Strangers' swap mates just for fun

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

'Sex With Strangers'

R (for strong language, adult theme, nudity)

105 minutes

Also: Filmmaker Joe Gantz will speak after today's 7 and 10 p.m. screenings

"Sex With Strangers," opening today, is reality TV brought to the cineplex screen.

Brothers Joe and Harry Gantz, who regularly probe cab passengers on HBO's "Taxicab Confessions" series, turn to three swinging couples and explore slice-of-life vignettes about the highs and lows of swapping partners.

James and Theresa are roadies who drive in their RV from one liaison to another, checking out prospective conquests, even keeping a photo album of their trysts. They openly solicit couples, offering passage into their traveling domain, with the cameras following — to a point.

Calvin and Sara are younger explorers, whose relationship is rocky, particularly with the third-party presence of Julie, who brings flavor and complications to their stew.

Gerard and Shannon, newest to the swinging fray, test each other's loyalty. They become swingers, on the advice of a marriage counselor, and curiously, their participation appears to heal earlier infidelities. Together, they turn to the Internet to check out likely compatibles. Thus, swingers are very much like monogamous couples: In a relationship, loyalty counts most, jealousy doesn't wash.

All of which is an underlying theme of "Strangers." Even swingers, who seek adventure with a passion, still have basic emotional needs like those in traditional relationships, and if a mate strays, there's hurt and venom.

The movie depicts group sex with caution — in the trailer, in bed, in a hot tub, in a swingers' club — and never gets lurid. Indeed, while there is some nudity and a lot of body-to-body contact, the approach is more clinical than titillating.

With real people in real situations, "Stranger" unreels like a home movie, with occasional abrupt camera work and an edgy, raw quality. The language is frank, honest, candid throughout — much like the subjects, who don't mind grinning and baring it.