Australian Comedy 'A Funny Kind of Love' Makes Being Sexually Incompatible Funny


"Whatever happened to old-fashioned sex?" asks a distraught character in the Australian comedy A Funny Kind of Love. The answer, perhaps, is that a standard type of sex never existed – what arouses people is all individual. And the fact that someone with rare or embarrassing tastes may shy away from discussing them with his or her partner makes great comedy material, as actor/director Josh Lawson shows in this film.

In it there are two types of people: the "winners" who speak out to their partners and the "losers" who don't. The running theme is that the hidden sexual preferences are bizarre, from a woman who can orgasm only if she sees her husband in tears, to a man who gets sexually aroused when he watches his partner sleep.

Their adventures are often kinky and sometimes hazardous. Maeve (Bojana Novakovic) is a pretty thirtysomething who suddenly announces to her boyfriend Paul (Lawson in a cameo role) that she hopes to be raped. Her partner, a gentle bear of a man, mishears, thinking that Maeve asked him to "rate" her. "You're wonderful, the absolute best." "No darling, I want you to rape me!" Paul reels with shock. His initial reaction is to dismiss the idea as preposterous. Yet when he realises that Maeve is sexually unfulfilled, he has second thoughts. He starts concocting plans to please her and ends up enlisting the help of a reformed sex offender.

The film cuts back and forth between this and other episodes featuring garden-variety heterosexuals mismatched with a partner who have specialist demands. This structure keeps the film light and amusing, yet Lawson provides ample food for thought. He is right to point out couples need to communicate openly about their most intimate preferences. Secondly – and this is the more speculative idea – acting out one's sexuality might transform someone into a different person.

Dan (Damon Herriman), has almost entirely stopped having sex with his partner Evie (Kate Mulvany). When the two realise that their marriage is in danger, they see a counsellor who advises them to act out their fantasies: "Have you never heard of role-play," the shrink asks the couple when he sees their blank, astonished faces.

After much coaxing, they embark on a voyage of self-discovery. The film delights in their excruciating antics: uptight Dan role-plays many different characters, from a businessman to a bent cop. Evie in turn dresses up as a glamorous It-girl and as a submissive prisoner. Adopting new identities not only spices up the couple's sex life, it also makes Dan realise that he's not the person he thought he was. He eventually announces to Evie that he wants to change his career and become an actor.

There is plenty here to wonder and wince about. Yet why the characters are all middle-class, white and heterosexual remains a mystery.

The closest Lawson gets to breaking out of the mould is in the film's final episode, which has some of the bubbly charm of When Harry Met Sally and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex. Monica (Erin James) is a sign-language interpreter who works for an online translation service. Deaf customers call in on Skype and Monica voices their words for the hearing people on the receiving end.

One day, Sam (TJ Power) requests her services. To Monica's shock, the caller with the handsome boy-next-door looks asks her to dial up a sex line. As she interprets from and into sign, the conversation gets ever more explicit. Increasingly uncomfortable, Monica struggles through the call. At the same time, she can't help feeling attracted to this shameless stranger. In moments like this, the film proves that the Americans and French don't have a monopoly on sex comedies. Australians can make us cringe just as well.