The OH in Ohio (2006) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: Not rated but would be R for strong sexual dialogue and language
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Parker Posey, Paul Rudd, Mischa Barton, Danny DeVito, Miranda Bailey, Keith David, Heather Graham, Liza Minnelli
Director: Billy Kent
Screenplay: Adam Wierzbianski
Review published July 23, 2006
The OH in Ohio subversively maintains that sexual compatibility, and not just love alone, is crucial to the health and happiness of long-term relationships. It's not about the sex per se, it's about feeling complete and fulfilled, with each partner knowing they can give each other the greatest pleasure, and receive it in turn. When one of the partners never achieves it, it may leave the other one with a sense of inadequacy and, if prolonged, depression. They say that if you can't succeed, to try and try again, but when all avenues have been exhausted, there's just no choice but to admit total failure. But in the case of marriage for life, it also can't work when one of the partners stops trying.
Parker Posey (Blade: Trinity, Laws of Attraction) stars as Priscilla Chase, a successful and determined career woman with what she feels is a good marriage with her longtime sweetheart, Jack (Rudd, The Baxter). Jack is not so sure, as he feels less than a man for never, not even once, being able to give Priscilla an orgasm in the many years they have been trying. While Priscilla maintains that she just has never had one, she feels content, even though it has left Jack an empty and bitter shell of a man. They try many ways to overcome the problem, but the only one that seems to work is when Priscilla turns to the use of a B.O.B. -- the "battery-operated boyfriend" she becomes addicted to, leaving Jack completely out of the equation. Meanwhile, with the help of a headstrong student, Jack seeks to feel like a man again. While their short-term problems have been solved, will Priscilla and Jack be able to "make magic" on their own?
As directed by first-timer Billy Kent, The Oh in Ohio plays out like an extended HBO sitcom, full of adult humor, modestly popular stars, and writing that knowingly plays irreverently to its target audience. Unlike most other modern sex comedies, this one plays more toward older couples than it does to young men, which makes it a bit of a rare breed in this era of crass and sophomoric gags. If it plays close to any particular current movie, it might be similar to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, coincidentally also featuring Paul Rudd, but not quite as broad, colorful or, frankly, as funny.
Although it plays out as an easy-to-understand comedy, the subject matter brings forth certain truths about sexual relationships. Women may not define their sexual proclivity by their ability to achieve orgasm, but for some men, the ability to maintain stamina and also to give pleasure is vital to their self-worth. While the act of making love might be thought of as a bedroom-only realm, what happens during the minutes of the act itself seems to spill over into the rest of the relationship. Couples that are repressed tend to find it difficult to communicate, and when they are frustrated, it makes every small thing a much bigger issue when nerves are frayed. Eventually, complete shutdown will result.
As savvy as the script is thematically, and as adept as Kent is in delivering the material, there is a problem with the casting that keeps The Oh in Ohio from gelling into a satisfying whole. Perhaps the biggest problem stems from the lack of chemistry between Parker Posey and Paul Rudd, both thespians who normally deliver handsomely in romantic comedies, but never seem to find the right footing to suggest there ever was any strong bond between them at any point, even before their problems with sexual closure. Then there are the two actors that represent outside temptations for the couple, Danny DeVito (Be Cool, Big Fish) and Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense, Lost and Delirious).
While DeVito is certainly charismatic enough to think that some women, particularly older women that like a guy with an outgoing sense of humor, would find attractive, it just doesn't make sense that an eccentric and still fairly immature woman like Posey could really connect with him, especially since he isn't exactly blessed with striking good looks. Meanwhile, Mischa Barton is certainly attractive enough to think Rudd's character would be tempted by a fling, but her character feels just too faux-sophisticated to really buy as a high school teenager.
Basically, no one feels right attached to any of the others, and the result is a film about romance and sex that is neither romantic nor particularly sexy. You can't root for the couple to get back together, but you don't really think they belong with anyone else either. What's left in terms of a rooting interest purely lies in the film's ability to deliver on laughter and poignancy, but in this regard, The Oh in Ohio is a hit-and-miss affair. Most of the laughs come through either contrived broad. physical gags (Posey achieves an orgasm when her vibrating cell phone won't stop ringing during a presentation) or just through outlandish characterizations (Liza Minnelli embodies the worst of it, playing a sex guidance counselor that has women get in touch, physically and spiritually, with their vaginas).
While I can't quite rave about The Oh in Ohio enough to give it a passing grade, I do suspect that it does have an audience out there that will find it more than interesting enough to get a kick out of. Women will probably enjoy it more than men, particularly older women who have been in relationships where they may have been left hanging in the sex department by a man that is either selfish or inadequate in taking her to "sexual nirvana".
If you're not in this group, expect only a fitfully amusing sitcom-caliber comedy that will mildly keep your interest, even if you aren't' exactly left in stitches. For a film about a woman who enjoys the the act of sex without actually being able to achieve orgasm, it's fittingly ironic how The Oh in Ohio manages to make us sense amusement without actually getting us to laugh out loud.
©2006 Vince Leo