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A common complaint of sorts about sex in contemporary, mainstream movies is how often it seems to happen with clothes on, and not in an urgent Risky Business sort of way. These are the kinds of weirdest-of-both-worlds encounter where women strip down enough to indulge some cheap titillation, and then sleep, with what I’m told would rep significant discomfort, in their bras, while men keep their boxers on like they’re about to go for a quick dip in an unattended hotel pool. It’s gotten to the point where the most explicit sex in a studio movie tends to happen in comedies, by virtue of what’s become a comic cliché: the quick montage of caricatured acrobatics masquerading as sex positions. (And even there, when the joke is supposed to be the outré cheekiness, the actors still pretty much keep their clothes on.) It’s so difficult to complain about the chasteness of these moments without sounding prurient (and to be clear, I think movie actors of all genders should be naked more often) that I can almost understand the instinct to suggest doing away with them all together.
There’s a moment early in A Nice Girl Like You that very nearly confronts the unsexy, overlit mechanics of rom-com sexuality. Lucy (Lucy Hale) is having sex with her unconvincing live-in boyfriend Jeff (Stephen Friedrich), and her mind is wandering, her inner monologue a mess of self-consciousness and only fleeting pleasure. She is also wearing a full-on pajama top. When she cries out the name of a grocery-list item she forgot rather than her beloved’s, Jeff ceases all operations, briefly complaints about her distracted disinterest in their lovemaking, calls her out for wearing what look like flannel pajamas, and heads to his mancave-y office to do some work, by which he means play video games and jerk off to porn.
It’s uncomfortably easy in this scene to read Jeff as exactly the kind of creep critic (slash blogger slash any given guy playing video games) complaining about the hot girl in the movie not getting naked before retiring to angrily masturbate in an environment constructed with hospitality toward his animal urges closer to front of mind. Lucy even shares a name with the actress who plays her; all that’s missing is some kind of overfamiliar nickname she doesn’t actually use. Even without those overtones, here is a movie scene that acknowledges the vast gulfs between male fantasy, the realities of couplehood, and the cutesy primness of so much movie sex.
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