Barry Munday: Sex Has Lost the Sexual Revolution

barry munday

Malcolm McDowell and Judy Greer

Writer/director Chris D’Arienzo’s Barry Munday is a droll sex comedy minus sex with a gifted ensemble cast that’s extremely enjoyable to watch. Patrick Wilson, who was so good opposite Kate Winslet in 2006’s heavy sex drama Little Children, takes a comedic turn here as the title character, an unrepentant male chauvinist pig whose objectification of women is derailed by a quirky quirk of fate. Enter Ginger Farley (played by the comical Judy Greer) as a one night stand Barry barely remembers, but who appears shortly after his emasculating accident claiming that he knocked her up (or did he?).

Chloe Sevigny of HBO’s Big Love makes big trouble here as the nerdy Ginger’s hot to trot sister Jennifer. Two former stars and sex symbols of 1960s/1970s cinema have supporting roles here: Cybill Shepherd (1971’s The Last Picture Show, 1972’s The Heartbreak Kid, 1974’s Daisy Miller) and Malcolm McDowell (1968’s If…, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange) play the sisters’ parents with great wit. It is, in particular, a joy to see McDowell back on the big screen, and he is in good form here. Jean Smart (who portrays Hawaii’s governor on CBS’ remake of the Hawaii Five-O series) also has fun portraying the stricken Barry’s hippie-ish mom, probably the funny source of his female issues.

barry munday

Chloe Sevigny

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed this indie farce and laughed throughout it, and you probably will, too. But it’s anti-sex-as- recreation point of view is irritating, suggesting that the de-sexualization of Barry has somehow made him a better man. He’s more caring and able to assume the responsibilities of fatherhood, now that he doesn’t have to deal with that distraction of those pesky, raging hormones. This is especially annoying as it’s a contemporary trend in movies that appear trendy on the surface but are actually anti-sex and quite reactionary.

Examples of the anti-sex bent in pop culture include two 2007 movies: Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, with that bumbling, unattractive 21st century everyman Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigel, and Jason Reitman’s Juno, starring Ellen Page and that other unappealing, sexually inept contemporary everyman, Michael Cera. Both films are extremely nervous about sexuality and deal with out-of-wedlock conceptions. Along with Barry Munday, they express the viewpoint that the only legitimate, real purpose sexuality serves is not for pleasure, but solely for reproduction. Beneath their cool sheen these movies and their ilk are agitprop for the “family values” Christian fundamentalist rightwing, and throwbacks to America’s “Scarlet A” Puritan past. They advocate restraining and reigning in our instinctual selves as the path to ending unwanted, unplanned pregnancies – not expanding access to birth control and reproductive rights. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bristol Palin how effective this conservative methodology is. (Notice that abortion was removed from the already gutted healthcare bill – so much for the “pubic option.”)


ed rampellIt makes me wonder whatever happened to the sexual revolution? And to the hard won, greater freedoms filmmakers fought for in terms of honestly depicting nudity, sexuality, etc., as in McDowell’s classic If… and dare we add his 1979 Caligula? Talents have more artistic freedom nowadays – they just generally don’t use it. I guess sex has lost the sexual revolution.

But as I say, other than that, I had a good fun time watching Barry Munday.

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based film historian, critic, author, freelance writer and wag who wrote the Oct. 26, 2001 Tucson Weekly cover story“Tinseltown’s Tombstone, A Look at the Real and Reel Wyatt Earp.”

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