Sunday, May 24, 2015

Easy (1978)

Directed by Anthony Spinelli
Starring Jesie St. James and Richard Pacheco
Synopsis: Schoolteacher and recent divorcée Kate Harrison (Jesie St. James) ditches her teaching job and hits the road to nymphomania, meeting her share of creeps and pining for real love along the way.

(Review contains minor spoilers in order to make a few points. This isn't Hitchcock so I doubt it will ruin anyone's enjoyment of the film. A clip appears after the review.)

Review: Anyone familiar with classic adult cinema will tell you that Anthony Spinelli was one hell of a director. With little exception his films are well-shot, well-written, well-acted and often emotionally involving. In his hands you would think the story of a romantically-challenged nymphomaniac who uses sex to dull her aching for love would be essential viewing. Unfortunately, even with brilliant camerawork and EXCELLENT performances, Easy is one of Spinelli's lesser efforts.

There are positives to be enjoyed, however. The cast is first rate. Jesie St. James (as Kate, in her first starring role) is energetic and extremely watchable. She is a natural actress and delivers both dialogue and emotion with the same expertise as she moans and screams her way through the sex scenes. Richard Pacheco balances both comedy and menace in his role as a teenage rough. Pacheco is a truly gifted actor who always impresses. Desirée Cousteau brings the comic relief and director Spinelli has a memorable cameo as a letch who comes onto Kate in a seedy bar. The cinematography by Jack Remee looks fantastic (even through the haze of VCX's shoddy DVD) and most of the sex scenes are blisteringly hot. So where does Easy go wrong?


Richard Pacheco and Jesie St. James
Easy is a film with a message, but unfortunately that message is rather muddled. Kate readily admits to being a nymphomaniac with the throwaway explanation that she is looking for sexual freedom after a humiliating divorce. Ok, that's all well and good, but the message is rather undercut by the abundance of non-consensual sex the character finds herself involved in (and enjoying) throughout the movie. Three of the sex scenes are unequivocally rape (one occasion at knife-point, no less.)

Georgina Spelvin
The third rape scene (her attacker this go 'round is the legendary Georgina Spelvin) is somewhat less problematic because it actually leads to the realization that Kate's man is a two-timer and extricating herself from the poisonous pair she decides to turn her life around. Unfortunately the earlier rape scenes just have Kate getting up, dusting herself off and diving into bed with the next guy to give her the once over. It could be argued, I suppose, that her promiscuity is an effort to regain a feeling of control after having that control taken away from her, but that doesn't jive with her obvious enjoyment. Another way to look at it would be that being victimized is the only way she is able to allow herself to enjoy sex. But, this also doesn't jive with her behavior throughout the rest of the film.

Desirée Cousteau
There have been a number of films where non-consensual sex has been an important thematic strand (Sometime Sweet Susan springs to mind) and is used to show the emotional damage such a personal assault can cause. Not so in Easy. In all three of the scenes in question, Kate initially resists but soon begins to enjoy it. That notion is more than just distasteful, it's downright dangerous. Even more worrying is that a similar strand runs through the otherwise enjoyable Vista Valley P.T.A. in which St. James was again directed by Spinelli. I kept waiting for the film to offer some sort of explanation...but I waited in vain. Had these scenes not ended with Kate enjoying the experience I think it would have worked much better. In fact, I think it would make a much better case for Kate's sexually-wanton behavior and emotional withdrawal. Oh well, I wasn't the screenwriter.

Buttering up Ken Scudder.
The other sex scenes in the film are, thankfully, highly erotic and enjoyably offbeat. We get both female-to-male rimming and female-to-male fingering, not something you generally see in an adult film geared towards straight men. In the latter fingering scene, Kate seduces a blind piano tuner (Ken Scudder) in a moment that is lighthearted, sexy and fun. A later scene in which Desirée Cousteau and Laurien Dominique seduce their respective boy toys is also highly erotic, if superfluous, and offers a nice respite from the rougher aspects of the film.

Worth the price of admission is a hilarious catfight between Georgina Spelvin (looking particularly lovely) and Jesie St. James that seems plucked right out of Knots Landing. Good times!

I know just how you feel, kid.
The film closes with Kate feeling she has finally found love and will leave her wanton ways in the past...only to be spurned again. Easy is obviously trying to convey a message, though I'm at a loss to tell you what that message actually is. I will say, however, that the ending did give me an emotional pang. I felt for Kate and was sad to see her story end on a sour note. I think this comes down to Jesie St. James' brilliant performance. In fact, the whole cast is superb. I think there could have been a really great film here with a bit sharper focus.

I would still recommend Easy simply to enjoy the consensual sex scenes which are rich with heat...but this may be the rare classic adult film where one should fast-forward through the plot and just enjoy the naughty bits.

-Johnny Stanwyck

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