WFF 2015: How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town Review

It’s not like everyone goes to the multiplex clambering for a suburban sex-comedy. The very notion seems a bit softball. Sure, we’ll get some ribald jesting and gently provocative semi-smut, but fears of a bland, sitcom like feel are surely justified for any thinking cinemagoer.

It’s thus all the more refreshing that Jeremy Lalonde’s delightfully named How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town goes well beyond its titillating title to craft a little gem of a film.

Like any decent orgy the film rests upon the charisma, capabilities and level of engagement of the participants. Jewel Staite, an actress with a slew of credits including a role with serious nerd-cred in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, anchors the cast with her portrayal as Cassie. Her character is complicated, with her mother using Cassie’s life as the basis for a series of Green Gables-like books that puts the small community of Beaver Ridge on the map. After a particularly harrowing experience where emotions (and bodies) are exposed she leaves town, only to return years later as a kind of celebrity.

Back home she meets old friends and foes alike, including Alice (Katherine Isabelle) and Adam (Ennis Esmer). In a kind of dare with the prissy Heather (Lauren Lee Smith) certain members of the community are led down a carnal path where, of course, trouble ensues.

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How-to-Plan-Orgy

It all should feel a bit hackneyed and silly, yet time after time the strong performances and Lalonde’s assured direction keeps the farce from becoming irritating rather than entertaining. Staite does a strong job at keeping things lively, yet it’s the stuck-up Heather that’s the broadest of all the characters yet rendered with both wit and sensitivity (and terrific physicality) by Smith. 

The town of Unionville, Ontario stands in for Beaver Ridge and its horrific suburban quaintness is the ideal setting for such silliness. The film toys with notions of prejudice and repression, even playfully poking at things like race and sexuality in ways that are humourous rather than hurtful. It’s as if the whole thing plays like a genuinely good natured riff on insecurity in all its forms, using outlier behaviour to expose some pretty common (but no less intense) notions of intimacy and trust.

In a positive way the film feels entirely Canadian – an orgy, after all, is by definition an inclusive event, and things only get messy when one steps out of line. One could wax philosophic that the tenets of said orgy – knowing that to fuck and be fucked requires reciprocal respect, humility and honesty – might well be the most pure example of community. Whether the notion of a group orgy can supplant Hobbesian, Locke or Rousseau’s more staid articulations about the idea of a social contract is perhaps beyond the required scope of this film, but it’s amusing to ponder nonetheless.

How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town is a droll take on the conflation of small towns and small-mindedness, finding in its provocative yet accessible storyline a way to tell a rich character piece with moments of broad silliness. Lalonde’s brand of fuckery is fun, his ensemble game for whatever comes their way, unafraid to let it all hang out until the final moments. Kudos to the commitment of the performers, and applause for Lalonde and his team for making such a cheeky, fun little flick.

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