Giving It Up (1999) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, language and some drug use
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Mark Feuerstein, Amy Redford, Ben Weber, Dabney Coleman, Ali Larter, James Lesure, Callie Thorne
Director: Christopher Kublan
Screenplay: Christopher Kublan, Daniel Einfeld
Review published April 11, 2003
Whether you know this by the original title Casanova Falling, the international title No Sex 4 U, or the home video title Giving It Up, a stinker by any other name reeks just as bad. In the world of romantic comedies, it's the sex comedies that usually are among the worst, taking every feeling, emotion, and original thought and dragging them through the mental gutter, until what we're left with are penis jokes and a terrible aftertaste.
Mark Feuerstein is Ralph, the one who "gives it up," a successful advertising pitch man, and even more successful ladies man. He can bed any woman, the ones who are available and the ones who aren't, until he meets a "bookish" associate in the firm, Elizabeth (Redford). They both start off thinking each other not their mutual type, but soon they begin to draw closer and more attracted, but Ralph's reputation is a barrier to both of them, because Elizabeth can't feel special if he's sleeping around with a different woman every night. Ralph wants a relationship, and in a bout of loneliness, he sees a shrink and a support group for sex addicts, and the conclusion is that he should go celibate. However, the woman of his dreams has entered the scene in the form of a supermodel he has been obsessed with (Larter), and Ralph must come to grips with what he wants more in life.
There's really only one thing that Giving It Up has going for it that would suggest it could be a good romantic comedy, and that's the appealing cast. Somehow, perhaps because of the modest budget, this cast isn't quite up to the characters as defined in Kublan's script. Feuerstein might be a decent looking fellow, but it's a bit of a stretch to think he has the looks, money or charisma necessary to be able to bed any woman he sets his eyes on. Amy Redford is supposed to be a bit square, but other than the fact that she wears glasses on occasion, she doesn't seem like a geek, and she's too attractive to think that Ralph wouldn't have tried to bed her from the get go. Ali Larter is a good looking woman as well, yet not quite the stuff of your typical supermodel, and the fact that she turns every man's eye even when wearing clothing that isn't sexy or revealing, is a bit hard to swallow.
It's as though Kublan aimed too high for the cast he was able to provide, and too low in the script because he was able to get players who are too intelligent for the material. It's a Catch-22 (or "Snatch-22," as Dabney calls it in the film), whereby he has the right group for a terrific romantic comedy, just not this one. Essentially, they deserve better than bad jokes about lesbians, golden showers, periods, and chronic masturbation. They deserve better than a script where every character is poorly defined, full of lines that make you wince at how crass or poorly written it is.
Although it came out before it, Giving It Up is just a lesser-budgeted version of 40 Days and 40 Nights, complete with all of the weaknesses. It's very difficult to make a sex comedy that is worthwhile, maybe once in a generation. Looks like the current generation is still looking for theirs.
©2003 Vince Leo