Delighted by Virtual Sexuality!
By Kristin Battestella
By jove that is the worst title I think I’ve ever heard, but upon discovering this 1999 hidden gem, I must admit, Virtual Sexuality is a witty, delightful take on geeks, sex, and teens.
Displeased with her lack of a sex life at the ripe old age of seventeen, virginal Justine (Laura Fraser) trails her geeky friend Chas (Luke de Lacey) to a computer convention. While there, Justine creates the perfect man Jake (Rupert Penry-Jones) in an experimental virtual reality machine. A nearby explosion damages the convention, and unbeknownst to Justine, Jake has popped out of the machine-alive and well. Unfortunately, Jake thinks he is Justine; a woman trapped in a beefcake’s bod.
It’s an absurd premise of course, and although technology has made many fast leaps and bounds in the last ten years, we’ve not come far enough to print out people. Nevertheless, I found myself interested in the characters and situations in Virtual Sexuality. The title means little to the story, but I imagine director Nick Hurran (Little Black Book) and writer Nick Fisher (Hustle) were stuck with the title from Chloe Rayban’s source novel Virtual Sexual Reality. At least it sounds sexy and controversial enough. Folks looking for some bad porn will quickly tune out, but comedy fans will be pleasantly surprised if they dare to pick up such a title!
I like Laura Fraser and her quirky portrayal of Justine. Previously I’ve seen her stateside in Titus and A Knight’s Tale, but both parts are small for an actress who seems to have all the makings of the next Brit It Girl. Why doesn’t she work more, or why is her work not seen in the
? Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks, Match Point) as Jake is pretty enough, but I enjoyed his complex and humorous experiences more than his chiseled self. We’ve seen men in women’s bodies and vice versa, but Jake’s sexual explorations and girlie mannerisms are funny without resorting to gay (or gay or simply British?) jokes. Likewise de Lacey’s lovelorn Chas is more than the usual geek. Most of the film is more about his buddy relationship with Jake. The viewpoints from each character offer surprising insights and twists and turns, and the Britishness of the cast and locales adds to the quirky fun flavor. US
Usually found in separate movies, Virtual Sexuality combines the teen sex comedy and coming of age buddy movie without resorting to sentimentality or gross out humor. This multi layered storyline has its stupid moments, of course, but the questions raised weren’t obvious, and I was unsure what final road the film would take. I was interested in what happened to these quirky British teens, and refreshingly, the outcome was not what I expected.
Fans of British films will enjoy Virtual Sexuality, but folks who normally can’t take the accents will enjoy the subdued language. It’s nice for goofy American teens to know that hey, Brit kids have the same troubles, too. Virtual Sexuality is tame by today’s standards, but it still has a few racy things that surprise us Americans, including some full frontal male innuendo. I wouldn’t recommend the film to kids under 15, and hey, those young folks might laugh too much at that early VR equipment, anyway.
If you’re looking for a fun and intelligent sex comedy without all the predictable romance and traditional ending, Virtual Sexuality is the unusual alternative. It’s tough to find, but worth the hunt.