Stuart Gordon is a writer/director/producer of film, television and theater. He is best known for the cult classic Re-Animator and for murdering his wife Carolyn in his films whenever possible.
“I know this is a weird situation but all I can say is that when I’m here with you I’m completely here. Yes, you pay me for my time but you can’t control how I feel. That’s just between us.” So begins Anja Marquardt’s new film She’s Lost Control, and the words are spoken by Ronah (well played by Brooke Bloom), who we soon discover is a sexual surrogate.
We’ve seen this world before, most recently in The Sessions, in which Helen Hunt played a similar role. She was so sweet, sexy and matter-of-factly positive that she made me wish that she was available to take on another client. But my daughter Margaret saw it a bit differently. “She’s just a whore,” she bluntly told me, bursting my bubble of fantasy. I tried to explain that Helen Hunt was playing a therapist who is helping her patients reclaim their damaged sex lives, but Margaret wasn’t buying. “She takes money for sex,” she reminded me. End of story.
I think Margaret would have a better time with She’s Lost Control, as Ronah seems more than a little bit conflicted about her own job. When asked what she does for a living, she replies that she’s a student working to get her master’s in behavioral psychology. We see her with several of her clients, most of who seem like nice guys, but someone is calling her on her cell-phone and when she answers all she hears is heavy breathing.
Ronah’s personal life seems extremely lonely. Aside from reporting regularly to a shrink (Dennis Boutsikaris) about her assignations, and conversations with Irene, an older sexual surrogate (Laila Robins), she seems to have no real friends (or lovers). She’s also estranged from her brother, who keeps calling to report that their mother’s dementia is getting worse and asking for his sister’s help. But Ronah can’t seem to be bothered.
There is a brief scene in which she invites the woman who lives below her apartment to dinner, but she turns down her neighbor’s friendly invitation to join her for a night on the town. And when Ronah’s bathtub begins leaking through this same neighbor’s ceiling, the apartment’s handymen tear Ronah’s bathroom wall apart, never to repair it. Then the neighbor sues Ronah for the damages to her apartment. So much for the glamorous life of a professional sexual surrogate.
These scenes reminded me a bit of Polanski’s great film The Tenant, which dealt with the horrors of renting an apartment, but these are just the warm-up for She’s Lost Control’s main event. Ronah has taken on a new client, Johnny (played by Marc Menchaca), a nurse anesthetist who suffers from intimacy problems. Sullen and unresponsive, Johnny seems to be on the edge of totally losing his mind. “I feel like strangling you,” he tells her at one of their first meetings.
At this point, most sensible people would tell him AMF and have no further sessions with this crazy asshole. But Ronah never even reports this telling conversation to the shrink and instead takes it upon herself to heal this clearly extremely damaged young man. She believes she is the beauty who can tame this savage beast. When she tells Irene that she is attracted to Johnny (God knows why) and asks for her advice, Irene warns Ronah that this could become extremely dangerous. (Hello!)
Maybe the audience would feel differently if Johnny weren’t played so completely crazy so early on. We need to see the sweet side of him to comprehend why Ronah is falling under his spell. I found myself losing all sympathy for her, not understanding how she could be so completely clueless. They say that love is blind but we need to see at least a glimpse of Johnny’s charm, charisma and potential to get a handle on Ronah’s hopeless infatuation with him, to understand her reason for putting her own personal safety in jeopardy in order to save him.
I was reminded of Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining, in which he seemed off his nut from the first minute of Kubrick’s otherwise brilliant film. I couldn’t help but wonder how or why anyone would let Jack be the caretaker of an outhouse, let alone the immense Overlook Hotel. I realize it’s sometimes possible to make us care for flawed protagonists: Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver or Raging Bull comes to mind, but maybe you have to be Martin Scorsese to pull it off.
Actress Brooke Bloom delivers a fully committed performance and carries the film on her capable shoulders. And the supporting cast members are quite good. We believe the depressing world they live in, but unfortunately She’s Lost Control makes me wonder if director/writer/producer Anja Marquardt has lost control as well.