A group of 30-somethings trapped in the amber of their high school years attempt to bone their way into adulthood in A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, an ensemble sex comedy written and directed by Larry Sanders Show writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck. Technically, the orgy of the title is conceived as the culmination of 15 years of theme parties (a "White Trash Bash" opens the film) thrown by Eric (Jason Sudeikis) at his father's soon-to-be-sold Hamptons estate. (Don Johnson swings by for a cameo as Dad, complete with pink shirt and pinker girlfriend.) But underlying the orgy's proposal as the ultimate bonding session is the hope that it might help sunset the endless summer and edge these Gen Xers apart.
Sudeikis is the goatish maestro of the ensuing, rough-hewn hybrid of Hot Tub Time Machine's R-rated nostalgic raunch and Humpday's bromantic reckoning. His crew comprises Adam (Nick Kroll), a crosswording lawyer whose BlackBerry meets a watery end early on; Sue (Michelle Borth), the hardbody nursing a crush on Eric; Duquez (Martin Starr), a musician tortured by indecision and insecurity; Duquez's sexy-docile girlfriend Willow (Angela Sarafyan); Laura (Lindsay Sloane), the shy one with body issues and a failure to orgasm; Mike (Tyler Labine), the stone-cold satyr whose extra 50 pounds only enhance his self-esteem; and Alison (Lake Bell), the beauty with bad taste in men and a habit of life-coaching instead of listening. Newly moved to the fringe are the group's first procreators, played by Lucy Punch and Will Forte, whose respective harried dismay and strangled, exquisite rage are highlights of the film.
The setup is loose and largely funny: Riffs and one-liners fly from every corner, fast enough to avert the sting of the lamer gambits, such as Eric and Mike's lewdness over a teenage girl wearing "sex bracelets" to indicate how far she has gone. But A Good Old Fashioned Orgy develops commitment issues to rival those of its characters when the central conceit pushes its way in, failing to settle on a dominant, orienting tone. Is the world of the film ruled by its high concept, its low comedy, its demographic credibility, or its romantic screwball realism? Ultimately, Orgy's refusal to be any one thing — including good or bad — forms a kind of epochal statement.
The balance struck between comic expedience and generational relevance is an uneasy one: Mike and Eric's research expedition to a mattress store orgy, for instance, yields some laughs, but would they really need to be schooled about pegging and pulling a train? A generation older than their subjects, Gregory and Huyck strain themselves with the sex bracelets bit, which plays like a rehash of early-'00s-era trend stories about "cuddle puddles" and "lipstick parties." It's their way of setting up the key element of Eric and Mike's pitch to their pals: Kids today are freaks, our parents were freaks, but the AIDS panic screwed our generation out of its share of semi-anonymous orgasms and benign STDs. From that rather dubious sell on, as incredulity gives way to individual reasons to go for it — though the film works hard to give its female constituents the illusion of equitable sexual agency, illusion is mostly what it amounts to — Orgy alternates between flyaway goofing and blunt expository refreshment of the conceit.
The big dilemma of the plot is Eric's growing attraction to the sweet but sharp-witted Kelly (Leslie Bibb), who charms him at the White Trash Party and then turns out to be the realtor trying to sell his father's house. Is it wrong to pursue a woman when one has an orgy scheduled? The resolution to that question, and the big event itself, transports us to Planet Greenlight, a third world between illogic and fantasy hovering over Hollywood. Yet a subversive truth penetrates the already well-penetrated plot: In celebrating the loss of good jobs, encouraging rock star pipe dreams, congratulating the extension of freeloading leisure, treating playful sexuality as both retro and regressive, and making a freak show of the one character (Alison's boyfriend Marcus) who reads the Economist and is repulsed by women shaving themselves back to prepubescence, Orgy might be the sex comedy this generation deserves.