Any poor shmoe can tell you that there is nothing more lonely than being loved “like a friend.” Follow hapless Anthony Rosano as he tries to break free of “The Friend Zone” in this excellent couples’ film from New Sensations.
(portions of this review previously appeared on Fleshbot, America’s sex culture site since 2003)
Studio: New Sensations
Director: Eddie Powell
Starring: Anthony Rosano, Riley Reid, Lexi Bloom, Dana DeArmond, Giovanni Francesco, Danny Mountain, Xander Corvus
With New Sensations’ excellent “The Friend Zone,” I feel like Romance Porn finally strikes a balance between porn masquerading as something else and Hollywood-lite fare but with sex in it.
Imagine a “Catch Me If You Can”-era Tom Hanks wooing Meg Ryan when she was in junior high, but with the feel of “Sleepless in Seattle,” and you’ve got (mail) Anthony Rosano and Riley Reid in “The Friend Zone,” something Nora Ephron might write if she were into facial cumshots.
[Read my interview with "Friend Zone" writer Jacky St. James here]
Kevin and Gina (Rosano and Reid) have been best friends and roommates for five years. But, Kevin tells us in Jacky St. James’ light, tight, and funny script, “I spent five years of my life doing everything a boyfriend would do, except being a boyfriend.”
You expect Harry Connick Jr. to come stumbling in at any moment to this movie, directed expertly by Eddie Powell with a great eye for casting, editing choices, and that 1990s love affair with big band crooners. Kevin loves Gina, but an ill-conceived bit of online dating fraud threatens to torpedo their friendship before he can take it to the next level.
“The Friend Zone” is a very simple story executed nearly flawlessly. Rosano is such a good actor that he is usually stuck carrying a movie’s performance requirements singlehandedly. But here he is joined by an excellent supporting cast.
Xander Corvus probably has the best lines as Kevin’s tool officemate.
“You’re staring at him like I stare at the new receptionist’s ass,” says Corvus to beefy Cameron (Giovanni Francesco).
“Dude,” says Cameron. “That’s my sister.”
“Then your sister has a nice ass.”
(In a zinger you’d expect from a Ron Howard/Rob Reiner movie, Cameron later says, “Can’t believe that guy works in Human Resources.”)
Corvus gets his comeuppance from venal girlfriend Dana DeArmond, who dismisses a recent affair as having been on her bucket list.
Another great character is Gina’s excitable sister, Wendy (Lexi Bloom), who actually looks and talks enough like Riley Reid that we believe their relationship. Bloom is the Julie Kavner to Reid’s Valerie Harper, an indication both that I watch too much TVLand and that “The Friend Zone” is a throwback to the great scripted porn movies of long ago.
But whereas all those old scripts needed to feature sex as a main character, tied to the novelty of showing sex on screen, what millennial porn movies tend to forget is that everyone is having sex, so it just needs to be incidental in the right way.
“The Friend Zone” did so much right that I hesitate to mention one raspberry seed in our dentures: as good as Reid and Rosano were independently, their obvious age difference made the relationship less credible. We would have accepted both an older woman or a younger man, but it took a while to get over the “Of course she wouldn’t consider you as a date, you cradle robber” reaction.
Nonetheless, “The Friend Zone” is my first favorite movie this year.
Buy “The Friend Zone” here
Previously on Porn Valley Observed:
See also: New Sensations