Women in Trouble introduced me to Sebastian Gutierrez, whose writing style impressed me so much, I compared him to Aaron Sorkin. The film was a gem, a sex comedy with a brain and a heart at work. Lightning so rarely strikes twice in the movie world, but Gutierrez has made another gem. The astounding thing is, it’s a sequel, and sequels are rarely if ever as good as the films that preceded them. Elektra Luxx is just as witty, cleverly structured, and intelligent as Women in Trouble; it makes us laugh not with physical gags but with conversations, which flow so effortlessly and are so well worded that they almost seem unworthy of a story involving a porn star, a sex blogger, and a naked man in an elevator.
Ah, but that implies a serious lack of faith on the part of porn stars, sex bloggers, and naked men. Gutierrez proves that B-grade material can be given A-list treatment; these characters are not vile throwaway gags, but people with real thoughts, feelings, and issues. No matter how briefly they appear on camera, there’s never a point at which we don’t learn something about them. Keeping an audience invested in several characters isn’t easy, especially when they’re involved in their own subplots, all of which are fragmented and weave in and out of each other; Gutierrez pulls it off because he has seen to it that every character is interesting. The more they spoke, the more I wanted to know about them. Here’s a movie you could listen to on the radio and still feel as if you’re getting something out of it.
Since Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) discovered she was pregnant, she has quit the porn industry and started teaching sex classes to women in a community center. One day, she’s approached Cora (Marley Shelton), the flight attendant indirectly responsible for the death of Elektra’s boyfriend, British rocker Nick Chapel; although nothing was ever consummated with Nick, she still feels incredibly guilty, for she’s engaged to a man she truly loves. After washing down several pills with a martini, she gives Elektra a number of unpublished songs written by Nick, all of which are about her. So as to relieve herself of guilt, Cora asks Elektra for a favor: Sleep with her finacé, who is said to be a fan of her work.
Through a misunderstanding too funny to give away, Elektra meets Dellwood Butterworth (Timothy Olyphant), a private investigator hired by Nick Chapel’s record label to retrieve the missing song lyrics. He eventually has a cup of coffee with Elektra; although their scene is brief, Dellwood is developed in such a way that we learn everything we need to know about him. He’s genuinely nervous around Elektra, for he thinks she’s just about perfect. The two have a pleasant conversation. She has a similar rapport with her downstairs neighbor, a young man who’s not getting along with his girlfriend and even tries to chase her down the hall … without any clothes on. He and Elektra wind up on an elevator, which promptly stalls. “What is it with me and elevators?” Elektra grumbles.
Meanwhile, Elektra’s former co-star, adult actress Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki), is on vacation in Mexico with her best friend, Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Holly has a tendency to turn ordinary conversations into baffling ordeals, in large part because of her limited vocabulary. On the trip, she begins to realize that her feelings for Bambi run deeper than mere friendship. I really like Holly; she’s ignorant, but she strives for something more. In Women in Trouble, she and Bambi got into an argument over the Virgin Mary; in this film, Mary will manifest herself to Elektra in the form of an uncredited Julianne Moore. Even in matters of the divine, Gutierrez still manages some of the funniest dialogue: “Ask me anything,” Mary tells Elektra, “as long as it’s not the capital of South Dakota.”
Acting as a narrator is Elektra’s biggest fan, Bert Rodriguez (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who runs a porn blog from the basement of his mother’s house. He’s not the filthy-minded weirdo we would expect him to be. He is, in fact, a highly moral person. His sister, Olive (Amy Rosoff), wants to be an internet pinup, and even posts dirty pictures of herself on Bert’s blog; although it leads to an increase in hits, Bert adamantly refuses to let her subject herself to that kind of exposure. Characters like this are the reason I like these kinds of movies: They’re funny, and yet they’re not shallow or underdeveloped. If Elektra Luxx and Women in Trouble aren’t on their way to becoming classics, we have a serious injustice on our hands. These are the films that deserve recognition; they’re engaging, smart, well written, and incredibly funny. Note: As was the case with Women in Trouble, you should stay for the end credits.
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