Autoerotic Movie Review: Welcome to Mumbleporn

The stories of four couples that are anything but erotic
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I have a rule about independent films that bill themselves as, "erotic." It is almost a guarantee that those films are actually the furthest thing from erotic. Autoerotic by Joe Swanberg is no exception.

Below is how this movie is billed:

"Autoerotic follows four interconnected Chicago couples as they explore the boundaries of self-pleasure and sexual exploration.  Through a unique blend of outrageous comedy and in-your-face sex, Autoerotic insightfully illuminates the private sexual lives of America's urbanites."

Here is the real scoop. This movie is a new subgenre of Mumblecore, which I will call "Mumbleporn."

Spoiler alert: This film is already spoiled, so I am not really ruining anything.

First off the four couples are interconnected if you define interconnected as one guy knows one other guy out of four couples. And I use "guy" because no one in this film is really named. So I would love to tell you who's who, but I can't because, no one has a name! (I'm sorry, one person has a name.) Some people look at this as artsy, I call it just another reason not to care about these characters.

This film is broken down into four separate stories which all start with some form of sexual interaction.

The first is about a guy who is obsessed with having a small penis. Even though he has a loving girlfriend, his neurosis about it causes an inability to perform. He decides to try penis-enlargement pills and they end up working. He becomes so confident that he breaks up with his girlfriend and decides to try his hand at sportf*@king. His first attempt fails miserably so he tries to get back together with the loving girlfriend. That too fails miserably. We find out that he has overdosed on the pills and is now happily left alone to caress his giant frankenpenis, which even John Holmes would run from.

The second part is about a girl who is a compulsive masturbator. (I'm sure someone is out there saying, "Wow, that's so taboo. A girl who is a compulsive masturbator." It's not.) She can't seem to go for more than five minutes without having to tickle the little man in the boat.

After having a really frank conversation with her friend about the issue, her friend suggests she try chocking herself while doing it. And so she does. Her boyfriend, (who has a fetish for tights with no panties on a woman) finds her passed out with a belt around her neck. He is concerned about her hurting herself, and like a real trooper offers to do the choking for her.

What?!

Look I know that people with fetishes respect other people needing something a little different in order to get off, but the idea of him being so easily on board with her need for erotic asphyxiation is ridiculous. And since like everyone else in this movie, we have no backstory or real reason to care about these two, it makes it even harder to believe.

Part three focuses on a married couple who are expecting their first child. Although they are still sexually active, the wife cannot achieve orgasm through intercourse or through self stimulation. Lucky me, I got to witness both of these things. 

As with our chronic masturbator, the pregnant wife has a very frank conversation with her best friend about not being able to climax. But lucky for her, the best friend is such a best friend, that she offers to get the pregnant wife to orgasm. An offer that goes over well with both the pregnant wife and her husband. He feels it will be sexy and good for his wife and he thinks all this becasue he thinks he's going to get to join in. Guess what, he doesn't get to. But what he does do is secretly watch, masturbate, and record the encounter to his iPhone. His wife climaxes, the friend and her giggle, and the husband pretends like he was outside the whole time. Then at bedtime, the husband tries some pointers he picked up from secretly watching and pleasures his pregnant wife.

Ugh!!! Almost every psychologist and therapist and relatively sane person will tell you that bringing in a third party to your sex life almost never makes things better. Usually it causes problems and destroys intimacy. It saddens me that Swanberg would create a couple that is so sex-focused that this idea is shown in a good light with a positive ending. Perhaps Swanberg should channel his adolescent fantasies into something other than this film.

And finally, the fourth and final "couple" in Autoerotic is a guy who has a thing for recording himself with women then jacking off to them later. He a creepy, self-obsessed guy who lives in a barren apartment who is clearly more in love with himself and his fantasies than the woman, Anne, that he filmed.

Now I know someone is out there is saying his barren apartment equates to his barren life. Shut up! It just paints him as a creepy man no woman would really ever want to be with.

Anne calls our masturbating Narcissis in order to arrange a time to pick up some things of hers that he has at his place. He takes it as a sign that she wants to come over to have sex with him and answers his door in a towel. They have a conversation about the dirty movies they made and of course she wants him to do away with them. He denies her request and she leaves.

His frank best-friend conversation occurs on a rooftop over beers where his buddy suggests that he delete the films if Anne will give a casting of her lady bits for him to use to masturbate with. She comes over, the offer is made, and she agrees to the casting of her Georgia O'Keefe. He then applies color and hair to it to make it more life-like. In the final shot of the film we see him using this homemade Fleshlight to satisfy his needs.

Just another day in Chicago.

Swanberg, Barrett, and Wingard have created characters that there is no emotional connection to and who you don't really care about. I understand that they are "demystifying" these sexual interactions, but all of them are so over the top that the subtle relatability they may have been attempting is lost. I'm all for symbolism and caricature, but the audience still needs to be able to connect with each charater. These charaters are flat and narcissitic and only remind me of people that I would never want to know.

If you still want to see it, go ahead, but please know if you come back and tell me you liked it, I will write you off as pretentious and as a term that the Dead Milkmen used in their song, "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance To Anything)".

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