Orgasm, Inc. (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

Orgasm, Inc. (2011)

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Liz Canner's shocking yet entertaining documentary ORGASM INC. explores the strange science of female pleasure, and in the process reveals the often warped mentality of our pharmaceutical and medical industries. ORGASM INC. begins when filmmaker Liz Canner is hired to edit erotic videos to be used in a drug trial for a pharmaceutical company. Her employer is developing what they hope will be the first FDA approved "Viagra" drug for women that will treat a new disease: Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). Intrigued, Liz decides to make a movie about the science of female pleasure. But she soon begins to suspect that her employer, along with other medical and pharmaceutical companies, might be trying to take advantage of women (and potentially endanger their health) in pursuit of profit. With unique access and a deft style of interviewing, Liz embarks on a nine year odyssey as she follows pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers who are racing to be the first to win FDA approval for their product - be it pill, patch, nose spray, or some other delivery device. The promised cure: "normal" sexual function and orgasm. The prize: billions of dollars in profits. Despite its serious agenda, Canner brings wry humor to her film. Featuring illuminating footage and interviews with activists, doctors and medical experts (including Chicago-based sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman, whose new show will debut on the Oprah Winfrey Network), ORGASM INC. is a powerful, timely and, yes, entertaining look inside Big Pharma and other medical companies with their often misleading marketing campaigns that literally and figuratively reshape our everyday lives. Upbeat, engaging, enlightening, and provocative, ORGASM INC. will change the way you think about sex. -- (C) First Run Features

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Critic Reviews for Orgasm, Inc.

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (10)

Canner's deft exposé also makes clear that some of the highest-profile "experts" are shills for Big Pharma, and that genital mutilation is thriving in the West, in the form of cosmetic surgery.

March 31, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Can best be described as a compelling mess.

Full Review… | March 31, 2011
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Some subjects are so compelling that not even bad filmmaking can ruin them. And for most of "Orgasm Inc.'' it feels as if Canner is trying with all her might to do just that.

Full Review… | March 24, 2011
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Many documentaries lose focus or become unwieldy as their directors uncover unexpected facts about their subjects, but Canner is able to keep Orgasm Inc. trained on its eponymous theme ...

Full Review… | February 16, 2011
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Essentially, "Orgasm Inc." illustrates a time-honored principle of capitalism, which is that you'll never go broke by convincing women that something is wrong with them and then selling them something to make it better.

February 16, 2011
Salon.com
Top Critic

By taking a playful approach to a deeply serious subject, [director Liz Canner] explores the link between female sexuality and corporate profits with a style that's as entertaining as it is revelatory.

February 11, 2011
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Orgasm, Inc.

Doesn't Quite Make It to the Finish Line It isn't easy to make a really moving documentary about most subjects. This is the real reason Holocaust documentaries win so many Oscars; it's hard to make a documentary about the Holocaust that isn't compelling. (Though goodness knows I've seen it done.) There is a movement away from talking heads, and I think that's a good thing, but I don't like the direction a lot of filmmakers are choosing to take. In this one, for example, there was the ongoing conceit of the "race to FDA approval" for a Female Sexual Dysfunction medication. To demonstrate this, the film shows a little pink-coloured Viagra pill, among others, on little tiny legs running up a giant bed to a finish line at the pillow. It's silly the first time, and it doesn't get less silly as the film progresses. There's a lot of good material here, and I think there are interesting things said about our culture. I just don't think they're said very well. Obviously, we're dealing with an issue that goes way back; the film includes a brief stop at a museum of antique vibrators, something I wish I'd seen on my last trip to San Francisco. However, the problem has moved on from "hysteria." Now, the issue stems from women who don't have "hysterical paroxysms," as they were once called, either during intercourse or at all. It has been medicalized as Female Sexual Dysfunction, an overarching diagnosis that covers nearly half of all women in its broadest definition. Obviously, the company that can come up with an FDA-approved treatment for the condition will rake in billions. However, there is the not inconsiderable problem that women's orgasms are a bit more complicated than male erectile dysfunction is, and indeed, there is considerable debate over whether or not the condition even truly exists. As of the release of this film, none of the contenders had made it across that badly animated finish line in the US, though one is approved in the EU under certain conditions. So why aren't they sure it's a real condition? Well, one of the people interviewed was in a trial group for an electric box that was supposed to stimulate orgasm. Only it didn't. And then, she had one little statistic explained to her that made her realize she didn't even have a problem. You see, she was concerned because she wasn't having orgasms during penetrative intercourse. The statistic? Neither do at least seventy percent of women. She didn't have a medical condition; she was completely normal. It wasn't that she never had orgasms at all; it's just that she didn't have them when she thought she was supposed to. That's the thing; that forty-seven percent or whatever of women with this new condition includes women who [i]have[/i] orgasms, but not during intercourse. Rather than a pill, they clearly just need a map to give to their lovers. Or directions. Or something. There was a way around the problem, and it didn't require a prescription. One person in the film is shown insisting that people shouldn't take medications for anything, and I think that's just as wrong. After all, some women diagnosed with the condition have [i]painful[/i] intercourse, and that's a thing worth examining as well. It's actually possible that some small fraction of these women have a real medical problem. Others just need to understand their own bodies better, or they need lovers who do, or both. However, by lumping such disparate problems together, anyone who "solves" it with a drug can make a lot more money. Yes, it's in the best interests of the sex toy store owner to convince people that all they need is the proper toy. However, she won't make as much in the long run as the pharmaceutical companies. There are also no long-term negative effects to her products, which cannot be said for various of the other options people put forward over the course of the film. At least one is just horrific to me. That one, which is pretty much the only one widely available in the US, is surgery. It isn't just that director Elizabeth Canner insists that women who had their labia reduced for being too long (is this a worry normal people have?) now look more like children. It isn't even just the story of the woman who could have died when one of her sutures popped. It's that we're working so hard to try to get other countries to [i]stop[/i] performing unnecessary surgery on female genitalia, and it's becoming big business in the Western world. The film states that 80% of women have body issues. However, it doesn't distinguish between women like me, who legitimately have weight problems, with women who actually care if their labia match some standard that I didn't even know existed. There is good material here, and it could be interesting to have a dialogue on how women's sexuality has been treated by the predominantly male medical establishment. However, this movie is trying too hard to be flashy and interesting. I thought all you needed for that was sex.

Edith Nelson
Edith Nelson

Really good critique on the American culture of sexuality and pharm control of our health. A must watch.

Sheeva Slingblade
Sheeva Slingblade
½

As insightful as the documentary "Orgasm, Inc" is at times, it should also come as no surprise that pharmaceutical companies are mostly just interested in profits. In fact, they are willing to invent illnesses, just to create patients from healthy people, in this case, Female Sexual Dysfunction. This turns out to be another episode in a long cycle in the misunderstanding and mistreatment of women that goes back centuries.(And I'll bet you thought "Hysteria" was just joking.) Documentarian Liz Canner enters the picture when she is hired by Vivus to develop erotic videos for their clinical trials of a female viagra they are trying to develop.(It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.) That seems to be the most benign solution to this non-existent problem, with none lacking any serious side effects. The truth of the matter, smartly explained here, is that there is no problem because there is no normal, with everybody being wired differently. Actually, porn works. Or we could just get rid of religion.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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