Movie Review: 30 Beats
Rating: R (sexual content, nudity, language)
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: July 20, 2012
Directed by: Alexis Lloyd
Stars: 2 out of 5
Alexis Lloyd wrote and directed "30 Beats" based on the play "La Ronde" by Arthur Schnitzler. The play was written in the late 1890s as a way to skewer the sexual morals of that time period. It was set in Austria at a time when sex was not only a taboo subject, but downright shocking if discussed in polite society. With this film, Lloyd updates the play to show that we still have a long way to go in our handling of sexual taboos despite being a much more open society.
The film begins with Adam (Justin Kirk), who has a bit of a girl problem. It turns out that his ex-girlfriend's younger sister, Julie (Condola Rashad) wants Adam to be the one to take her virginity. Not only is Adam conflicted about deflowering a girl, he also has to sort out his feelings for his ex before he decides what to do. He confides this to his psychic, Erika (Jennifer Tilly), instead of a psychiatrist.
As Erika listens to and advises Adam, she is preoccupied with thoughts of her own relationship troubles. She is aware that her boyfriend Diego (Jason Day) has been unfaithful to her. The problem is that she loves him too much to leave him for sleeping with Laura (Paz de la Huerta). She would easily advise her clients to leave their significant other over such a betrayal, but she can't find the courage to do so herself.
The film continues to link the different couples to new couples through sex, desire and betrayal. Lloyd makes sure that each character featured in the film is tied to another, even if they are not aware of the links. Laura and Diego are connected to Matt (Lee Pace) through Laura's attraction to Matt. She wants to begin a sexual relationship with him, but Matt will have none of it, because he is her chiropractor and believes that it is inappropriate for him to begin a relationship with any of his patients. Matt maintains his professional boundaries with Laura, which only serves to make her want him more.
Another reason Matt rebuffs Laura's advances is that he wishes to remain faithful to his girlfriend Kim (Vahina Giocante). Unfortunately, Kim does not have the same desire to stay faithful. Instead, she tries to hook up with Julian (Thomas Sadoski), a lonely man who is wound up so tightly that he has a hard time connecting with women. To quell his loneliness, Julian occasionally enlists the services of a dominatrix named Alice (Ingeborga Dapkunaite). Julian and Alice's relationship is the only one in the movie where there is not only no emotional connection, but no implication of either person wanting one.
Alice continues to see clients even as she secretly makes plans to start a family. She has no boyfriend, and realizes most men won't want to marry a prostitute. With her biological clock ticking, she takes matters into her own hands, seeking out a sperm donor to help her get pregnant. She meets young Sean (Ben Levin) at her local gym and sets her sights on him as her donor.
Sean doesn't realize that he has drawn Alice's interest. Instead, he is completely focused on the fact that he is still a virgin, a condition he wishes to remedy. He wants his first time to be special, which is why he wants it to be with his good friend Julie. Julie, as you may recall, is also a virgin and wants to lose her virginity to Adam, her sister's ex-boyfriend.
With the introduction of Sean and his connection to Julie, the circle of connections comes to a close. Each story is told with a touch of humor, which is a welcome change from the high drama that comes with the tangled and complicated sexual relationships of each of the characters.
Although the film is rated R, it is surprisingly chaste. Director Lloyd has decided to keep all actual sexual acts off-screen; couples tease, kiss and caress, but there are no sex scenes. This interesting choice works well for the film, because the imagination can often go much further than the couples on the screen can go. This tactic makes a movie that is already sexually charged even sexier.
At 88 minutes long, "30 Beats" does not have time to drag at all. Each story is handled with excellent pacing, making for a taut, well-acted movie that does a good job updating Schnitzler's play more than a century after it was written.