The Lifestyle
dir David Schisgall ed Andrew Hafitz
cin Peter Hawkins music Byron Estep, Eddie Sperry
release St Louis Film Fest Nov.00
99/US 1h18 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Please stay in the pool! At a suburban potluck dinner, neighbours suddenly get nekkid and very friendly.
One of those jaw-dropping films that we watch despite ourselves, The Lifestyle examines a segment of society we may like to pretend doesn't exist: middle aged couples who swing. Yes, as the film's tagline says, we're talking about "group sex in the suburbs." Schisgall takes his camera and follows a number of couples from around the USA as they plan sex parties (potlucks, naturally), travel to the national Lifestyle convention in Palm Springs and, most of all, talk about why they're involved in all of this.

The range and backgrounds of the people interviewed is startling--these aren't wild fringe dwellers by any means, they're more like our parents and grandparents. So we certainly don't want to see them naked and partying! And yet the film only really comes together when Schisgall finally attends one of the parties and we see how it all works (even if he jump cuts through it, depriving us of really understanding how it works). The things these people say so matter-of-factly would normally make us blush, and yet we want to find out more. Still, Schisgall seems just a bit too pleased with himself for getting all this on film, and his attempts at visual irony are unsubtle and unnecessary. But it's all pretty astonishing really, funny, telling and compulsively watchable without ever being voyeuristic.

[strong themes and situations, nudity, language] 10.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall