It’s not a good sign when your lover picks up a porn DVD sitting on your desk, reads the back and mutters, “that’s just depressing.”
Clueless as to what film had caused the reaction and partially trapped underneath a tower of sex toys, scientific literature, and books, I asked him to read me the synopsis of Protect Me From Love:
Kelly (Briana Blair) and Zack (Kris Slater) seem to be the perfect couple. But appearances can be deceiving. When Kelly’s best friend Amy begins meddling, she becomes determined to prove him unworthy of her love. Convinced Amy’s evidence has uncovered an affair, Kelly falls into the arms of a former flame. Meanwhile, Zack tries desperately to clear his name and uncover the truth. Will Kelly realize her mistake or will her misguided friends continue to protect her from love?
This is one of Wicked’s attempts to tap into the heterosexual couples market, an effort which for the porn industry is tantamount to the quest for the Holy Grail — not because the idea of men and women enjoying the same visual stimuli is a myth, but because the industry has to contend with generalizations that though unrealistic, up until now, have worked out fairly well for them. Working from generalization, it makes perfect sense that throwing sex into a romantic comedy would make everyone happy. The ladies love romcoms, right? And the guys love sex! How could you lose?
I’m not a fan of romcoms, but I appreciate how difficult it is to execute a romance onscreen. You need your meet-cute, some clashes, some seemingly insurmountable obstacle, and a resolution, after which the protagonists can be seen on their way to Happily Ever After. You don’t have much time, so every action counts when it comes to driving the plot.
Here’s where you get into a sticky situation in porn — while skin flicks may be around the same length as feature films, they have to include sex scenes, which give them even less time to work with. The average time for a sex scene is between eight and 15 minutes and the bare minimum is three scenes per film. So, if you go for an average of 11 minutes per scene and even if you stick to only three scenes, you’ve already lost over half an hour of story time. This is why porn parodies are such a brilliant invention — they allow sex to piggyback on relationships and character arcs you already know, liberating porn producers to focus on what they do best: the sex.
Protect Me From Love has not three but five sex scenes ranging from 10 to 16 minutes in length. When you add them up, you have less than half an hour left for narrative development. Think about the challenges of creating characters a viewer will care about, establishing their relationships, giving them a challenge to overcome and resolving everything in less than thirty minutes. This is no cakewalk. So let’s pause for a moment and give Wicked a little bit of credit here.
Yeah, I know. You’re a consumer, not a critic who’s aware of all the details. You don’t have time, resources or inclination to be understanding about the hurdles being overcome in the effort to satisfy you. You just want a naughty film you and your main squeeze can watch and get down to. Fine. Well, here’s your fast and easy verdict: This film isn’t it. Have you ever watched a romcom where the things went just a little too awry for a resolution to feel realistic and you were left feeling like the characters were shallow or spineless or both? Protect Me From Love is that romcom, but with sex.
Here’s what happens: Kelly (played by the doe-eyed Briana Blair) and Zack (played by Kris Slater) are dating. Zack wants to meet her dad, but Kelly isn’t sure. Finally, she relents. This is the only indication the viewer gets that things are “getting serious” between them. It doesn’t really jive with the way Kelly’s roommate Amy (Kortney Kane) treats Zack, however: Amy is obsessed with proving that Zack is a cheating asshole. The friendship between Kelly and Amy is so deeply pathological, it’d be unrealistic if not for Girls, which seems to be normalizing this deranged sort of relationship among women.
In any event — spoiler alert — Zack is thinking about proposing to Kelly. He may love her, we don’t know. What we do know is what he tells his buddy (played by Barry Scott): “But Kelly’s a good girl; if I don’t take the plunge now, I might lose her” (which, in case you are not entirely human, is probably the last reason anyone wants to hear behind a proposal). Whatever his intentions, Zack is being very sneaky, going all over town to get a ring made and a surprise dinner catered by Kelly’s favorite chef so he can pop the question.
Given the situation, it’s very easy for Amy to get evidence of Zack lying to Kelly. When Kelly is confronted with it, she falls apart. Instead of waiting to see what happens or confronting her boyfriend, Kelly lets Amy take her out, gets sloshed and hooks up with an ex (Mick Blue). When Zack comes over the next day (completely clueless as to why Kelly isn’t answering her phone), Amy tells him that Kelly is back with her ex. Crestfallen, Zack goes to tell the woman making the ring (India Summer) that he no longer needs it — and proceeds to fuck her all over the couch.
Then, a random intervention. The chef who was making the surprise dinner shows up at Kelly’s after overhearing someone talking about Zack’s cheating ways at her restaurant. She tells Kelly that she’s the “other woman” — and explains the surprise. Instead of being horrified at her behavior and lack of faith, Kelly appears overjoyed. Not long after, Kelly and Zack are running toward one another in the rain, kissing, fucking and making up.
Okay, so sex is just sex. If anyone knows that, it’s me. But even I wouldn’t turn around and take it doggy style from an ex when faced with the idea that my partner might be lying to me. We’re talking about a monogamous relationship with, according to Kelly, “the One” here, but there’s no despair, no attempt to address the situation in any helpful fashion. Kelly simply goes to her ex and performs what is without argument the hottest sex scene in the entire film.
And she’s wrong! Zack wasn’t cheating at all! He was going to ask her to marry him — sure, for all the wrong reasons, but still. If I were Zack, I would have been furious. There would have been no coming back from that. Sorry. Game over.
But, no. Zack apparently forgives and forgets, with a quick detour through the ring designer’s thighs (which, by the way, is all kinds of wrong) — and then cut to the wedding. At which Amy is still acting like Zack is some kind of terrorist.
It’s not the sort of thing I would ever watch with a partner while in a monogamous relationship unless I wanted to trigger all his or her irrational fears and paranoia at once.
Meanwhile, the sex is not bad. You have a bit of variety in positions, which is not always the case in porn (as you can imagine, some positions are much easier to shoot than others). There was a bit of making out, but it didn’t always feel natural. There’s been a big push to make out more in scenes for couples films, but I would rather do without than see lack-luster kisses. And, of course, just as there are situations where pop shots on the tits aren’t very realistic (this film had a couple), there are also scenes where kissing doesn’t really work, such as the one between Barry Scott (Zack’s buddy) and Natalie Vegas, who played a stripper at Zack’s ill-fated pre-engagement bachelor party.
That whole scene, actually, should have been cut out of the film. Don’t get me wrong, Barry Scott and Natalie Vegas are in top shape, but the entire premise of the scene is ridiculous. Scott contacts Vegas, a stripper, to surprise his friend and Vegas drives all the way out to the Valley for the promised bachelor party. When she gets there, Zack is the only other person at the house and he wants nothing to do with her (he’s very monogamous up to this point), so Scott goes to tell the stripper that they don’t actually need her.
The stripper, quite rightly, tells Scott he’s a dickwad and that he needs to at least make good on the money she spent to get out there. So the dude reaches into his wallet and gives her six dollars. (I’ve been a stripper and if someone pulled that on me, he’d need an eye patch after removing my heel from his eye socket.) Vegas doesn’t disappoint — she sets him straight about what it costs to get out on these calls and Scott, who’s cheaper than a Happy Meal (seriously, who calls a stripper when he doesn’t have money to pay even for the bachelor lap dance?), decides to steal some money from Zack’s wallet. He hands Vegas a Benjamin, which, really, is the least he could do. But then he asks her for change!
Instead of laughing at him and punching him in the face, Vegas smiles and tells him that she has his change “right here,” meaning her mouth. Or her pussy. It’s unclear where the change is, but Scott looks for it in various orifices. And then, the unthinkable — Vegas asks him to cum inside her! Scott rips off the condom (at least he wore one), and ejaculates into her waiting mouth.
You know, I’ll forgive the porn industry a lot of things, including a pathological romcom plot, but I cannot and will not forgive insane depictions of other aspects of the sex industry. Earth to porn: have you ever met a stripper? Do you really think that she’s going to not only accept this level of unprofessionalism but actively reward it by fucking you? And kiss you and ask you to cum in her mouth? Go do a handstand on the roof and point your dick at the moon. Seriously.
The only reason I can think anyone would watch this film is for the Briana Blair and Mick Blue scene, which is absolutely fantastic (minus the despondent look on her face after he cums on her belly — you know, because he’s not “the One”). Blair is not a bad actress and it shows in her sex scenes. Her moans are primal — they feel real. When she’s over Blue in that sixty-nine and you see her pause, her back arched, you get the sense that she’s so overwhelmed with pleasure, she can’t do anything but moan. If she didn’t cum in that scene, she fooled me.
You don’t get the same synergy in the scene with Kris Slater later on, for some reason, though it’s possible that by that point, I was so horrified as a result of the story line, all my blood had left my vagina.
In summary — good try, Wicked. This isn’t easy. Thank you for continuing to work toward something all of us can love.