DVD Review: Young People F***ing
Young People F***ing is a Canadian romantic comedy that puts me in a bit of an awkward position. See, it's good – really, really good – but it was also co-written by and co-stars a good buddy of mine I've known since high school, Aaron Abrams, and the standout performance (in my opinion, at least) is from one of my oldest friends, Ennis Esmer. Now, I realize it pretty self-indulgent for me to even mention this, as if I'm trying to impress you with my film-industry connections (I’m not, believe me, as these two guys, talented as they are, are the sum total), but rather because I went to journalism school and believe in full disclosure, and if I'm about to go on at length about how great Young People F***ing is, I think you should know these facts. But something else you should know about me is that I am known among just about all of my friends as a bit of a jerk, largely (but not exclusively) because I'm notoriously bad at lying to people about things that it's culturally accepted we're all supposed to lie about. Which is really a roundabout way of saying that if Young People F***ing was actually a bad or even just mediocre movie, I'd say as much. But the thing is, it's the best romantic and/or sex comedy (it's a bit of both) I've seen, probably ever.
A quick note about the title: as I understand it, it was initially a working title of sorts, as Abrams and co-writer Martin Gero (who also directed the movie) called it that because Young People F***ing is really what the movie is about, and they couldn’t think of anything better, but planned on changing it to something more appropriate down the line. But people (producers, distributors, etc.) seemed to like it, and it just sorta stuck. So while the title does obviously turn heads, it’s not a cynical, attention-grabbing sort of thing so much as it is just the filmmakers being frank about what their movie’s about.
Young People F***ing, released in America as simply Y.P.F., was the centre of a mini-controversy surrounding government film grants here in Canada. See, just about every Canadian movie gets some amount of public financing, and eventually some bureaucrat or pundit or another realized there was a movie called Young People F***ing that received some amount of tax dollars. The flap over Y.P.F. is due to the title (anyone renting it to see some cheap, softcore thrills will be sorely disappointed) and the very frank – and hilarious – way the characters talk about sex. It's very much like Kevin Smith's Clerks, which got all sorts of attention back in 1994 for being the first movie to get slapped with an NC-17 rating for language alone. While Y.P.F. does include some nudity in it, it's nothing more than you'll see in your average R-rated action or comedy flick. It's also the most genuinely adult (and I mean that as in "mature," not "euphemism for pornography") comedy about sex and relationships I've seen. Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-old Virgin, Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall all resonated with audiences largely (in my opinion, at least) because, at their core, they present relationships in a realistic way people can relate to. Y.P.F. is similar, except that it strips away the sillier plot points of more high-concept, mainstream Hollywood comedies to focus exclusively on the more realistic relationship stuff, with the more “out there” situations still taking place within the realm of reality.
The plot of Y.P.F. is simple, though the film’s construction is not. It follows four unrelated couples (and one threesome) – The Friends, The Couple, The Exes, The First Date and The Roommates (that's the threesome) over one night, with each encounter divided into Prelude, Foreplay, Sex, Interlude and Orgasm and Afterglow. If any of the couples know each other, it's not mentioned; Y.P.F. is essentially an anthology movie, but all the separate stories are so connected, thematically, that you'll hardly notice. Just about all the stories are relatable to most people in one way or another, whether it's the inherent awkwardness of a platonic friends finally consummating years of unrequited feelings or the...other kind of inherent awkwardness of a threesome between a guy, his girlfriend and his roommate he can barely stand. Each story is simultaneously hilarious and also filled with "oh wow, that totally happened to me” moments. (For me, different aspects of The Exes and The Couple hit close to home, but that's the sort of detail that's different for everyone, sort of like how five different people can take five different meanings from a song.)
Y.P.F. is the feature film debut of director Martin Gero, a veteran writer/producer on the Canadian-made cult sci-fi series Stargate: Atlantis. Obviously that show is a far cry from a decidedly grown-up sex comedy, and romantic comedies aren't really the greatest showcase for flashy filmmaking tricks, but Gero does a good job with Y.P.F. Considering he’s got 11 characters in four different stories, with each of those stories in turn divided into five parts, Y.P.F. easily could have gotten too confusing or complicated for its own good, but Gero keeps everything bopping along at a nice pace, staying with each story for enough time to keep the viewer engaged, but not so long as the other stories are forgotten. Gero co-wrote the screenplay with actor Abrams (the male half of The Friends), and the two of them show more genuine understanding of relationships than any movie I can recall seeing. Gero's described Y.P.F. as a sex comedy for people who've actually had sex, and I couldn't have put it better myself. This isn't a goofy sex comedy aimed at randy teens, or a romantic comedy where the romance isn't consummated until offscreen after the couple gets together in the final scene. And for all the attention the film’s received for its alleged crudeness – in addition to the aforementioned controversy here in Canada about public funding for the film industry, America’s MPAA also had their share of issues with the movie – Y.P.F. also packs some real heart to it, and also has a lot of relevant and genuinely interesting things to say about modern relationships and the differences between love and lust.
The cast of Y.P.F. does great work across the board. Everyone gets funny stuff to do, though some more than others – arguably the film’s funniest performance belongs to Esmer as Gord, the gluttonous instigator of the threesome (who – SPOILER ALERT – is really more of a cheerleader than an active participant), and Peter Oldring is great as his almost-mute roommate, Dave. But overall this is a crop of very talented young actors all of whom have bright futures ahead of them if their performances here are any indication.
Young People F***ng is a movie about relationships aimed at people who've actually been in them themselves, and know how weird and awkward and sex and romance and all that other stuff actually be. None of the characters get exactly what they expected going into their respective couplings, and that's far more realistic than any amount of semen in Ben Stiller's hair. If you dig on romantic comedies and you’ve got a taste for ribald humour, Young People F***ing is about as good as it gets. Very highly recommended.
The lone extra on the standard Young People F***ing DVD – at least the Canadian version – is audio commentary from Abrams and Gero. I believe the American DVD is strictly a bare-bones affair (that’s what Amazon.ca is for), and I believe the Canadian Blu-Ray version has some other extras on it as well. Abrams and Gero are both extremely funny dudes, and they're a lot of fun to listen to, discussing everything from the ins and outs of production to great commentaries in DVD history. More extras on the standard DVD would have been nice, but overall the movie itself is good enough that it’s a minor gripe. Young People F***ing is a great little film that deserves your attention. Seek it out.
Labels: Canadian cinema, comedy, DVD review, Theme weeks