Shortbus - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shortbus Reviews

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½ May 31, 2016
Warm-hearted and humorous. It becomes disjointed after about an hour. This is because although it's really Sofia's story, the eternally weepy suicidal James steals the show from her, so the sudden happy endings all round are doubly disconcerting. It's the Daily Mail's most hated film of all time (before that, it was Meet the Feebles), so it's essential viewing, Ted!
½ December 12, 2015
While Shortbus is sexually progressive and features plenty of colorful LGBT characters, it can't sustain its initial promise and ends up running out of steam, collapsing under the weight of its own empty sentimentality that is rooted in a message that isn't all that profound to begin with. The first forty-five minutes or so are constantly funny and contain genuinely affecting moments, the unsimulated sex scenes refreshing in an industry where it's rare to even see an erect penis, but after it lays the groundwork for what it's trying to say it veers off into some less interesting territory, leaning hard on cheesy, simplistic "free love" lessons and giving way too much screen time to maudlin pseudo-indie/folk singers. It reaches for profundity late in the game and consistently falls short, attempting to juggle commentary on post-9/11 disconnect, fantasy sequences, depressive episodes, and explicit sex scenes without much success before its last-ditch attempt to tie everything up, a sloppy and embarrassingly earnest sing-along that feels disappointingly anti-climatic for a film that initially seemed so self-assured and so willing to resist banal normality.
½ December 12, 2015
What a spectacular film. Going in I had no idea what to expect, just that is was written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell who I love who is the genius behind Hedwig and The Angry Inch and I must say that this was one of the most incredible and exciting experiences I've had with a movie in a while. So beautiful, weird, graphic, twisted, inspired, funny, and full of emotion, this movie really moved me and is now one of my favorites.
4.5/5
½ November 8, 2015
Sex, like music, is a universal language. We want to use it to introduce character, evoke emotion, propel the plot.

-?Mitchell
August 19, 2015
Absolutely loved it! Killed. I like weird independent & subtitled films that's why Sundance & IFC late at night used to be my favorite activity. I love this movie with all my heart.
Super Reviewer
July 28, 2015
John Cameron Mitchell's compelling and salacious slice of sex-laden cinema. Mitchell interweaves three separate tales of highly sexed and sexually frustrated young New Yorkers, all of whom find some kind of salvation at an underground club named Shortbus. Anything goes at Shortbus, wild orgies between lonely singles, gay-couples, transsexuals, people from different ages, backgrounds. But be warned that all of the on screen sex is real, with full-frontal, and almost nonstop sex. Mitchell allows little time for his audience to pause for breath, opening the film with a frantic collage of copulation and carnality that features most of his central characters. These include Sofia, superbly played by the sexy Sook-Yin Lee, as a sex therapist who has never reached full orgasm; gay couple James, played well-played by Paul Dawson, who begins the movie by fellating himself, and has suicidal thoughts, and Jamie, nicely played by PJ DeBoy; and Severin, played solidly by Lindsay Beamish, a dominatrix who finds herself unable to find true love. Good direction by Mitchell, who also wrote the screenplay, he lets his cast of characters unravel their tales of woe, interspersing the touching and mostly sad stories. Mitchell's fearless and uncompromising vision that he depicts sexual acts that run the full coital gamut, from amusing to titillating to shocking. Interesting film to be sure, but not for all tastes. Released without a rating to avoid an NC-17 tag. Recommended.
July 5, 2015
John Cameron Mitchell's concept of creating a meaningful character study using largely unknown (and often non-actors) cast who also had to agree to have real sex is interesting in theory but problematic when put into action.

Some of the characters and subplots are more effective than others, but none manage to become fully formed. Sofia's story becomes the focus of the movie. Sook Yin Lee has the talent to make her character believable, but the ways in which she pursues her inability to achieve an orgasm never feels "real' and the brief scenes in which we "Sofia" working as a therapist rings painfully false. Sofia feels more like a gay man's concept of woman's sexuality. The other actors and subplots only ever find partial success. The strongest assets of the main cast players are that we do like them. The exception to this rule are two key characters, Jay Brannan and Peter Stickles. Neither actor seems to be able to convey any real emotion other than "bitchy" "vacant" and sort of "creepy" -- and when these two are left alone together it feels forced. Lindsay Beamish gives the strongest performance in the film. Sadly, we do not get to spend enough time with her.

The idea of capturing pornographic sex within a valid film production is not new, but I'm unaware of it being so creatively pursued. The graphic sex is not erotic, but it also fails to feel "real" -- even though, it is. It is impossible to tell if this is intentional or not. Though it is to Mitchell's credit that he has not cast people based on "looks" -- the cast is not unattractive but none really conform to societal ideas of beauty.

As the film reaches conclusion in a sort of musical finale, the audience is left with an interesting yet unsatisfying experience.

All that being said, Mitchell's film has some funny moments and employs a creative style of animation that pulls the subplots together. As we soar through a mix of clay sculpture and animation of New York City seems like a reminder that we are seeing a fake version of reality. Or at least this seems to be the reason. The odd and almost surreal sex club where all the characters gather is more of an idea than an actual place.

Viewing this movie on DVD some 8 years after I saw it on the screen, most of my opinions have stayed the same. The one aspect of the movie that caught me on a second viewing was the cast of "sextras" and "extras" -- the movie captures some interesting key players in the NYC Art Scene at the time it was filmed.

While John Cameron Mitchell's experimental study of human sexuality never quite works, it is interesting to watch it try.
June 4, 2015
Pushing boundaries and opening up conversation.
½ May 26, 2015
I don't really recommend this to anyone, but it gets props for being way frigging different. Just be prepared for kind of an indie, porn, depressing homosexual drama with a little comedy thrown in.
February 14, 2015
If you don't get it that is YOUR problem.
February 7, 2015
Explicitly fun and controversially honest, Shortbus is a daring, big-hearted, pansexual montage of New Yorkers looking for love, and perhaps a bit more. No other creator could pull off such complex and sexually interwoven stories. It's sex in context.
½ January 1, 2015
Interesting start to my year...
September 20, 2014
Una película sobre sexo q no deja atrás al amor y esta repleta de emoción.
September 17, 2014
Not the best written/directed movie but the queer representation is appreciated and I found most of the characters to be relatable in at least one aspect.
½ September 5, 2014
Cum for the unsimulated sex, stay for the story!
½ August 3, 2014
Awful. The acting was some of the worst I ever seen.
August 2, 2014
Strange movie. Basically porn lol
½ May 27, 2014
Pornographic for sure, but funny, touching and sweet on a human level. How did we get to be the person we are now, from who we were? Who are we to each other? What do we need that we don't have?
March 14, 2014
Very unique movie, giving viewers an extremely explicit look into queer culture. Don't think I've ever seen as much nudity or sex in a movie and not sure anything was simulated, it really appeared to be the real thing...
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