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.