Colin Mochrie, comedy, Eden Cupid, Emily Hampshire, Emily Watt, film festivals, Frances Townend, Gray Powell, Jonas Chernick, Lily Gao, Maya Misaljevic, Melanie Scrofano, movies, reviews, The End of Sex, TIFF, Toronto International Film Festival
May 13, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Sean Garrity
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed Canadian city, the comedy film “The End of Sex” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians and African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A married couple decide to spice up their sex life while their two pre-teen daughters are away at camp for a week.
Culture Audience: “The End of Sex” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a sporadically amusing and repetitive sex comedy that’s not as clever as the filmmakers think it is.
“The End of Sex” is a weak comedy that tries very hard to be edgy and cute at the same time. It’s mostly predictable tedium that’s not as open-minded as it tries to look. The women who are queer or sexually liberated in the movie get “punished” the most. Many of the sexual situations presented in the movie could have been a lot funnier and cleverly satirical if the filmmakers didn’t take the lazy approach of making everything look like a second-rate sitcom, albeit a sitcom that is definitely geared to adults. “The End of Sex” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
Directed by Sean Garrity and written by Jonas Chernick (who is one of the stars of the movie), “The End of Sex” (which takes place during one week in an unnamed Canadian city) would like viewers to believe that a married couple can solve their sexual boredom problems in just one week. That’s the period of time that Josh Michaels (played by Chernick) and his wife Emma Michaels (played by Emily Hampshire) have their home to themselves while their two underage daughters are away at a summer camp. The couple’s daughters are Grace (played by Maya Misaljevic) and Dawn (played by Emily Watt), who are about 7 to 9 years old. Dawn and Grace are in the movie for less than 10 minutes.
“The End of Sex” gets its title because Josh and Emma (who are both in their 40s) believe that their sex life was ruined because they became parents. Of course, it’s very easy to make children the scapegoats when the adults won’t take responsibility for their own actions. It soon becomes obvious as the story goes on that the kids aren’t the real reason why the passion has all but disappeared in Josh and Emma’s sex life. These two whiny and insecure spouses have problems being honest with each other.
As soon as the kids are out of the house for the trip away at camp, Josh and Emma decide to have sex. Emma tells Josh triumphantly, “We can be as loud as we want. I’m going to be loud.” But in fact, Emma isn’t loud during this encounter, as she and Josh have quiet and awkward sex, like people who don’t know each other very well and don’t want anyone to hear them.
“The End of Sex” frequently uses a gimmick that shows sex-related captions above people’s heads. During the scene where Emma and Josh are having sex after their children are out of the house, Emma is giving Josh oral sex, and a caption appears on screen that says, “Definitely too much teeth.” (The cast members do not have full frontal nudity in this movie.) Also during this scene, when Emma and Josh each fake an orgasm without telling the other spouse, the captions read, “Faked” and “Definitely faked.”
Eventually, Emma and Josh confess to each other about the faked orgasms. They are both offended, but Emma is especially insulted because she tells Josh that it’s more pathetic (and much more difficult) for a man to fake an orgasm. In actuality, Emma is just probably angry at herself that she was fooled by Josh.
However, this confession is a turning point in Josh and Emma’s marriage. They decide that in order to improve their marriage, they need to spice up their sex life by trying new things and experimenting. Although this entire movie’s story takes place in one week, there are so many things packed into this week, it looks completely phony that this couple can think they can turn their troubled marriage around in such a short period of time.
Of course, there will be people outside the marriage who will be involved in some of the shenanigans. Josh works as a packaging editor for an ad agency, where he and a much-younger co-worker named Kelly (played by Lily Gao) privately confide in each other about their love lives. Kelly doesn’t believe that monogamy and marriage are right for her. She thinks marriage is an outdated institution and monogamy is a construct of a patriarchal society.
Because Kelly has an image of being a sexually liberated free spirit, Josh asks Kelly for advice on what he should do to be a better lover. The Josh/Kelly relationship is inappropriate in a corporate workplace setting, since the movie shows Josh and Kelly talking almost exclusively about sex while they’re alone together in private conversations in the office. It doesn’t seem like a real friendship at all.
And because this movie comes across as a male filmmaker fantasy, you can easily predict what will happen when nerdy, average-looking, middle-aged Josh decides he’s going to do more than talk about sex with Kelly, a younger co-worker who’s pretty enough to be a model. Viewers are supposed to believe that Josh is charismatic enough (he’s not) to be sexually attractive to Kelly, who exists in this movie only to be someone who has raunchy conversations and to be Josh’s “temptation” to have sex outside of his marriage.
As for Emma, her “temptation” is a former classmate from her high school. His name is Marlon (played by Gray Powell), a bachelor who owns an art gallery. Marlon, who has had a crush on Emma since they were in high school together, is the first to admit that he’s overly talkative and has no tact. In other words, he’s a creep. After years of Marlon and Emma not seeing each other, Emma and Marlon get reacquainted when she and her best friend Wendy (played by Melanie Scrofano) go to an art exhibit at Marlon’s gallery. The art exhibit consists of photo close-ups of men’s testicles.
Emma and Wendy teach art to at-risk youth at a local recreation center. The movie goes off on a boring and unnecessary tangent about one of the teens named Aisha (played Eden Cupid) being the most talented student in the class. Emma thinks Aisha (who’s a painter and illustrator) is an art prodigy. Emma tells Marlon about Aisha and says that Marlon should stop by the recreation center to look at Aisha’s art. Marlon’s response is he will stop by the recreation center only because he wants to see Emma.
“The End of Sex” does one of the most cliché things that a sex comedy does when it’s about a couple wanting to try other things in their sex life: a subplot about the couple having a threesome. After some more awkward conversations, Emma and Josh decide that Wendy will be their threesome partner. On the surface, Wendy (who is in her own troubled marriage) seems meek and prudish, but she’s really had a secret crush on Emma, and eagerly accepts the offer of having this threesome.
As you might expect under these circumstances, this “threesome” idea is a disaster, since Wendy wants nothing to do with Josh and only wants to focus on Emma in this encounter. Josh feels rejected and excluded, while Emma is alarmed to find out that Wendy has had romantic feelings for Emma for a long time. None of this is spoiler information, since the trailer for “The End of Sex” gives away about 85% of the movie’s plot.
Also revealed in the trailer is a scene that’s supposed to be one of the funniest in the movie: Josh and Emma join a swingers’ club, where they find out that Emma’s parents—Arthur (played by Colin Mochrie) and Marge (played by Frances Townend)—have been longtime swingers. Arthur is dressed in bondage gear and is surprised to see Josh and Emma there, but Arthur almost instantly accepts that Josh and Emma are trying out the swinger lifestyle. By contrast, Emma is mortified and is disturbed that her parents were living a lie to her.
This uncomfortable revelation could have been mined for better laughs and more comedy in the movie, but “The End of Sex” then falls back into typical (and dull) stereotypes of the spouses trying to make each other jealous when they decide they’re going to try an “open marriage.” For a movie that’s supposed to be an adult-oriented sex comedy, “The End of Sex” spends too much time having the central couple act like immature teenagers. Toward the end of the movie, it just becomes an irritating back-and-forth of Emma and Josh using Marlon and Kelly to deceive the other spouse into thinking that a hot and heavy affair is going on with each “temptation” person.
Not all of “The End of Sex” is completely horrible. Chernick and Hampshire have good comedic timing in some of their scenes together. But when their characters Josh and Emma spend time with other people, the comedic chemistry looks very forced and inauthentic. Powell has moments when he is a scene stealer, but his odious and one-note Marlon character becomes less amusing as things drag on in the movie.
Mostly, “The End of Sex” is such a “male gaze” and borderline misogynistic film, because of all the ways that it subtly and not-so-subtly makes the women of the movie the ones to shame the most when it comes to these sexual hijinks, while the men in the movie get excused for awfulness in a “boys will be boys” attitude. Emma’s father Arthur isn’t all that concerned about Emma experiencing the trauma of finding out that he’s a swinger and all the years he lied to about it. Meanwhile, Emma’s mother Marge doesn’t really get to say anything about it at all.
Emma and Josh both kiss their “temptations” (as shown in the movie’s trailer), but one of these spouses ends up doing more than kissing someone outside the marriage and doesn’t get much flack for it by the other spouse. It’s easy to guess which spouse’s extramarital sexual encounter was quickly forgiven. In fact, it’s forgiven and brushed aside so quickly, it makes all of the other spouse’s previous jealousy look very contrived. And predictably, Josh is quick to blame Emma for their threesome fiasco, although he eventually backtracks when he admits that it wasn’t Emma’s fault that she didn’t know that Wendy would be so infatuated with Emma.
There’s also a huge disparity between Emma’s “temptation” and Josh’s “temptation.” Marlon is a physically average jerk with an unattractive personality, and he would want a committed love affair with Emma. Kelly is a pretty intellectual with an adventurous personality, and she would not want be in a committed relationship with Josh. As far as choosing a would-be extramarital lover for a “no strings attached” fling, Josh definitely has the better option.
“The End of Sex” is a sex comedy that pretends to be risky and daring but ultimately plays into old-fashioned gender stereotypes of what’s acceptable for men and women, when it comes to marriage and sex. It would be interesting to see what a female writer and a female director would have done with the same concept that “The End of Sex” filmmakers ultimately bungled with tired tropes and not-very-funny jokes. A comedy with this subject matter deserves better than to have it dumbed down into trite material that isn’t very sexy or amusing at all.
Blue Fox Entertainment released “The End of Sex” in select U.S. cinemas on April 28, 2023.