Shortbus - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shortbus Reviews

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Super Reviewer
February 2, 2014
If this firm didn't have considerable artistic and intellectual merit, it would be porn. But it does have merit and it has a LOT more to say than prurience or lust. In fact, such sentiments would be missing the point entirely. It's a brave and brash film about sexuality and relationships that makes one wonder -- why hasn't a film like this been made before?
Super Reviewer
May 26, 2012
Okay, honestly, I feel like the sex scenes were put there just to be titillating. Not effective.
Super Reviewer
½ January 13, 2012
I nearly turned it off in the first 20 minutes. Shocking, graphic sex. But when the main character (a sex therapist who can't achieve orgasm, played by Sook-Yin Lee) turns up at Shortbus - a sex club named after the little school buses, filled with "the challenged and the gifted," says the host - the content makes sense, and the almost-story begins to take shape as she and the other characters look for that perfect chemistry, however weird that may be. Mainly, I think this is a film about facing your biggest sexual difficulties straight-on, and by the end, it pulled me in, and the content didn't shock me anymore. A tough watch, borderline pornographic in the beginning, but a film with a big heart that I wound up understanding... more or less. There are some story holes. Decent, though.
Super Reviewer
December 12, 2010
If you go into "Shortbus" with only hearing about the graphic sex, you will be surprised to find that it's actually incredibly funny and enlightening. "Shortbus" is not for everyone, obviously, just the narrative alone could turn viewers off, let alone the nudity and real sexual contact. But, if exploring characters through their sexuality is up your ally, then this will be an extremely satisfying experience. The sex, while explicit, drives the story; there is always a reason for what you are seeing. You need to look into the sex and not at it. The performances are real and funny (the actors, for the most part, all wrote their own roles) and John Cameron Mitchell directs the proceedings with vigor, delight and plenty of energy. While "Shortbus" can get dark, it works well as a comedy, a drama and a great commentary on the sexual state of America in the 00s. "Shortbus" is a unique film to be sure, and an extremely brave one.
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2007
Very controversial in content and a real mix of opinions on this film, first of course is does this count as pornography? Well it certainly is explicit and the Actors did have sex in this movie, so is it porn, or art imitating life? Either way if you're not particularly open minded, this won't be a film for you.

It starts from the very first frame as a graphic and shockable open scene, but what I did find, was the further you get through the film, the more you ignore the sexual stuff and start to see this is not quite as one-dimensional as it may appear. You start seeing the non-sexual needs of each person and the individual relationships.
Ill leave the rest for you to judge!
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2007
Porn in disguise. Pssh.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
November 20, 2009
"Shortbus" is a unique but only moderately interesting film that explores 21st-century urban sexuality. It chronicles the joys and struggles of a handful of Brooklynites as they seek romantic and sexual fulfillment. One of the techniques the characters use is to attend gatherings that are essentially orgies. What's unusual is that writer/director John Cameron Mitchell (the creative mind behind 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch') has the actors actually take part in the orgies, complete with penetration.

But "Shortbus" is not a form of pornography. There are no close-ups of penetration or anything like that. Mitchell is most interested in exploring what goes on in someone's head during sex. I suppose he wanted the actors to have real sex in order to push them and the audience more deeply into the lived experience of eroticism. As an example, one male character has never been penetrated by another man. When it does finally happen, Mitchell has the actor really get penetrated. But the camera does not spend much time on his loins; it lingers on his face to capture the emotion he is experiencing. What we see on his face is not sexual arousal but personal transformation.

Unfortunately, this transformation is not that deep or complex. Ultimately the film is superficial, and this is its downfall. There's an air of sexual liberation that is quite nice, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. "Shortbus" experiments with form, but its content is rather hackneyed and thin.
Super Reviewer
½ August 14, 2009
"Voyeurism is Participation"

A group of New Yorkers get caught up in their romantic-sexual milieu converge at an underground salon infamous for its blend of art, music, politics, and carnality.

A good movie that explores all ranges of human sexuality and makes you think. It's explicit yet isn't pornographic. The movie is not intended for the faint of heart to watch. But with an open mind, you'll learn something from watching this movie.

The acting is the only weakness in this movie (and a few strange psychedelic scenes in the end), which explains the score I give the film. But, I applaud James Cameron Mitchell for directing a movie that so candidly and honestly explore all the relationship issues that all human beings have, and not just limit it to a category of people. While many may dismiss this movie as a poor excuse to shock people with sex, people who delve deeper will find that the director has a deep understanding of what a majority of people on this planet go through in their every day love life.

Check it out, withhold your judgment, and stay open to ideas. I think it will teach you something.
Super Reviewer
½ August 6, 2007
Trashy, arty vulgar junk.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2007
The film is essentially not about sex, but about people who find that sex is the only way they can communicate with one another. Unfortunately, the film follows too many characters and gets extremely tedious in its last act.
Super Reviewer
½ September 2, 2008
assembling an odd bunch of charactors, wrapped around the two central tales of a woman searching for an orgasm and a gay couple who, after 5 years together, are facing a crises of sorts, and you get a very original film. I felt that all the gratuetious sex got in the way (although on a deeper level, I sense the neccessity of it).

There are some very deep charactors with small parts here - from the ageing "mayor", to the veuyouristic neighbor living vicariously through the two gays, to the drag queen founder of "shortbus" (named after the smaller busses that pick up the gifted and the challenged).

Yet for those rich charactorizations, somehow the more central dominatrix charactor came off oddly flat and not believable. The believability was much more pronounced with Jamie, who wanted nothing more than the love and happiness of his moody companion (also Jamie, but in a foreboding sequence, tells a couples therapist that he wants to be called James).

A very poignant scene towards the end where Jamie sees James across the way, backlit in the window of the voeyuers apartment, highlights the directors ability to say much without dialogue.

The use of the 3-D drawings of NYC were a nich touch as well.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2007
I was skeptical about this as narcissistic NY freaks having explicit sex and talking about it endlessly is a hard sell but as with Hedgwick, the emotional honesty and accepting atmosphere won me over. Enchanting model/graphic of NY was a bonus.
Super Reviewer
½ October 3, 2007
The latest movie in the new wave of pseudo-porn flicks that attempt to attract viewers with shock tactics by breaking boundaries of taste. Personally I found it be to a dull story about uninteresting characters and their petty problems.
Super Reviewer
½ March 31, 2007
I'm kind of on the fence about this one. There were parts of it I didn't like - parts that reminded me of bad encroaching on soft-core porn movies that come on Showcase, and there were parts of it that were excellent. Pretty much everything about the movie was hit or miss for me, including the acting, the writing, the directing. Don't get me wrong, there were some beautiful moments. The ending sequence is wonderful, and how New York was a little paper cut out city instead of actual shows of the city was really cool. I don't know. I liked it, but I didn't love it. Very hard to describe, maybe after seeing it again I can give a better review.
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2007
When I saw this movie, I knew that it had to do with people in New York exploring their sex lives. I knew that the movie was somewhat graphic in its depiction of said sex lives-- but what I saw in Shortbus was so much more than that. This movie is one of the best films of last year, despite its touchy subject matter and its graphic display of concepts and ideas by a great director (John Cameron Mitchell).

At first glance, this film may seem to be a porno disguised as a legitimate film. But that's the point it's making. What is the difference between this and something subversive? Who designates what is subversive and what is acceptable. More importantly, this film explores so much more that's brewing beneath the surface of a sexually graphic exterior. Why do people act-out through sex? Sex elicits attention. Giving something attention means giving it power. Therefore, sex equals power.

But how is this power used? Can it be misused? To abuse a partner emotionally? To neglect the needs your body is asking you to fulfill? To satisfy yourself in more than sexual ways? To make a human connection for once in your life? These are all themes that this film explores and once you've gotten over the novelty of the excessive nudity and non-simulated sex, you get to the heart of a truly touching story about people trying to get by and survive in an unforgiving city-- an unforgiving world.
Super Reviewer
February 25, 2007
I like the scenes of straight couples in their sexual activity only, but not the gay scenes that makes me sick. Director John Cameron Mitchell makes a really strong adult film in every scenes.
Super Reviewer
½ November 25, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]In "Shortbus", James(Paul Dawson) and Jamie(PJ DeBoy) have been together for five years and are seeking to open up their relationship. To that end, they have started couples counseling but their first session turns heated. They then learn their therapist, Sofia(Sook-Yin Lee), has never had an orgasm, not even when having sex with her husband, Rob(Raphael Barker). So, they introduce her to the erotic club Shortbus where they hook up with Ceth(Jay Brannan) and she meets Severin(Lindsay Beamish), a dominatrix, with needs of her own...[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]Written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, "Shortbus" is a sexually graphic movie that is not so much about sex, as it is about honesty and being open in communicating your desires. Participation is always better than voyeurism, in both life and sex. The movie is surprisingly touching and funny(I'll never listen to the National Anthem in the same way again), while having respect for differences. But the acting is on the amateurish side and the movie faults by trying to force 9/11 into the conversation.[/font]
Super Reviewer
October 5, 2012
This was of course the film that Sook Yin Lee got all sorts of heat about but the naughty bits are all overplayed. It is a generally good, not excellent, piece of insight into seven lives of discovery. Not particularly memorable.
Super Reviewer
March 5, 2012
On sexual discovery and liberty, "Shortbus" also further explores the intricacies and complexities of the human psyche and relationships. As long as you are going into it with an open mind, you will find that the explicit sex scenes are there to serve the narrative and are by no means merely pornography on display. While there are some weak dialogue and questionable situations, the revelation of the genuine moments of passion, sorrow, and hilarity, amongst naked human forms, make "Shortbus" quite an exceptional, bold film.
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