Friday, March 3, 2023

The Donor Party: Movie Review

Terrible premise, low-level comedy, but some solid attempts at real topics.
The premise is all kinds of wrong, but if you can get it past it, the rest of the movie is not terrible. For a sex comedy about tricking men into accidentally impregnating a woman on purpose, the scale has to be how terrible it is. I had many concerns at the beginning, only some of which remained concerns. First, the lead character is an hysterical 40-ish woman desperate to get married and have a baby.   2023

Directed by: Thom Harp

Screenplay by: Thom Harp

Starring: Malin Akerman, Erinn Hayes, Ryan Hansen, Rob Corrdry, and Jerry O'Connell

There are few rom-com heroines worse than that archetype. But The Donor Party isn’t a rom-com and this type of character actually fits better in this type of over-the-top sex comedy. My next main concern is the lack of consent. It’s no longer consensual sex if one party is lying about not just their intentions but also about the use contraceptives. Without true consent, that’s sexual assault, and sexual assault isn’t funny. The film does touch on this concept at the end in a relatively fair manner since everybody has a different response about what level of fraud she’s committing. The film doesn’t take any concept beyond surface level, but it does at least touch on many of the issues present in such a set-up.

Malin Ackerman stars as Jaclyn, the divorced 40-ish woman, who’s had no luck with online dating and sees her window for having a baby shrinking; adoption and artificial insemination are such expensive methods and she’s starting to feel hopeless. Enter her friends Molly (Erinn Hayes) and Amandine (Bria Henderson) who hatch the really bad plan of basically an orgy party consisting of multiple one-night stands in the same night. But now enter a mostly stacked cast of recognizable names and faces who are all game for varying degrees of fun.

Molly, who’s a deceptively well written character and is gradually revealed to be a whole lifetime of bad decisions, has orchestrated the sex party to be her husband’s birthday party. Geoff (Rob Corddry) is continually frustrated about why all these people who aren’t his friends or he doesn’t even know are at his party. The jokes are pretty basic, but they are good enough for a few chuckles, especially when you have this level of experienced cast. Take Ryan Hansen for example. I will never understand how a man that ridiculously good-looking, who has perfect comedic timing, and can elevate normal men into something memorable, how he isn’t a more famous actor.

Here Hansen plays unwitting bachelor number 3, a guy who actually would have made a good romantic match for Ackerman’s Jaclyn had she not devolved into baby crazy before getting to know him. Which leads me to my next major concern. This is a female sex-positive comedy centered on a 40-ish woman who is unable to appreciate her life once she sees all her friends, and ex’s new partners, getting married and having kids. In other words this is a movie with a predominately female point of view and issues affecting women and it’s written and directed by a man. Why? Jaclyn and Molly are both well written and there is a level of realism to them, which is much better than I was expecting going into the movie. But still, could a woman filmmaker have been able to present a more multi-faceted viewpoint? Probably.

The one area the movie excels in is the clothing. The costume director has found the perfect dress for Malin Akerman, for the character, for the party and for her intentions. It leads to the simple joke that she’s massively over-dressed for her friend’s husband’s birthday party, and I can’t imagine a dress more stunning and flattering than that dress on that actress, and how perfectly it fits the character. A character who at the party gets mistaken for being in her twenties and is also assumed to be post-menopausal. Again these are fairly simple jokes, but they hit the mark. There is truth to how a woman Malin Akerman’s age can’t be identified and doesn’t fit into the boxes society has established.

The Donor Party tries to balance maturity – touching on the sexuality of middle aged women, the question of fraud and consent, and how willingly men will have pity sex because they can’t wrap their head around female promiscuity, but it doesn’t take any concept far enough. And you really can’t balance a mature take with such a bad premise. The jokes involve poking holes in condoms and using a turkey baster, like that’s how low it can go.