Review: The Friend Zone
Gina is everything Kevin wants in a woman. She’s funny, sweet, sexy and she doesn’t have qualms about being silly around him. They have more fun together than they do with anyone else, and keep a perfect balance in the pristine little house they share. There’s just one hitch: Gina and Kevin are best friends and roommates, not boyfriend and girlfriend.
Gina insists that she and Kevin try online dating and Kevin eventually relents, knowing fully well that as a less-than-average-looking guy, he’s not going to have any degree of success. To make it tolerable, Kevin creates a profile using the photo of a colleague who is much more attractive. But he doesn’t tell Gina and when Gina inadvertently stumbles on “SurlySteve,” she begins to fall madly for him. Kevin, astonished that the woman of his dreams is finally able to see him as more than a friend, can’t stop replying to her messages. More quickly than he expected, Gina asks him to meet with her.
Do we need to tell you things are about to get very, very messy? Yeah, didn’t think so.
New Sensations, founded in 1993, reinvented itself as one of the best porn parody studios in recent years, bagging the title of Parody Studio of the Year at the 2011 adult industry XBIZ Awards ceremony. But the race for wooing the female market is on in the skin biz, and New Sensations has stepped things up. The Friend Zone is one of the latest offerings in their Romance Series, a collection of plot-driven romantic comedies that don’t fade to black during the sexy scenes.
We hate the idea that catering to the female audience means pumping out a bunch of chick flicks — to be honest, most of us here at Sex and the 405 hate romantic comedies — but we’re not going to ignore the immense popularity of the erotic 50 Shades of Grey book series, which initially began as Twilight fan fiction, either. Twilight itself is testament that romance is hot, whether we like it or not, and we have to give the industry props for having a hand in dispelling the myth that women don’t care for porn, and for understanding how essential women are to such an effort behind the scenes. Simply put: if you want to woo women, you need a woman to do it.
This particular screenplay is written by Jacky St. James, who has a number of films already under her belt. she considers The Friend Zone her strongest effort to date.
“I’m a sucker for the underdog,” St. James told the Daily Loaf last year, when she was writing the screenplay. It shows, and Anthony Rosano’s portrayal of Kevin is impeccable. He’s funny, he’s hopeless, and he channels emotions in a way we’ve never seen done in any adult film. Anyone familiar with Rosano’s previous work knows he’s not unattractive, but The Friend Zone expertly uses other well-groomed men to make you believe that the slightly pudgy, five o’clock-shadow-sporting, dirty robe-wearing, frumpy singleton truly is below average. But he’s fun. He’s sweet. Whether you’ve ever been in his position, you can relate. You want him to win.
It’s not difficult to see why Riley Reid was cast as Gina. She’s cute, but not such a knock-out that you find it hard to suspend disbelief. The part would have been unbelievable in the hands of bombshells like Jessica Drake or Alektra Blue. In the opening credits, as you’re watching images of Kevin and Gina’s life together, playing, dancing, and having fun, you find yourself relating to her, too.
And then Reid opens her mouth. We’re not sure whether it’s the vocal fry that makes it so difficult to listen to her or the fact that she’s simply not convincing as an actress in a key role, but there is something about her that simply doesn’t jive. Don’t get us wrong, her sexual performance is glorious, but she will have some growing to do as the studio moves toward more of these plot-driven features.
Many of Reid’s scenes are buoyed somewhat by Lexi Bloom, who plays Gina’s sister Wendy. Bloom is the much-needed comedic relief, and absolutely stellar in her role as a woman whose ten-year relationship has just crashed and burned. Our only complaint about her character is the insane amount of screeching that seems to go on — we can only speak from our experience, but as a bunch of mid- to late-twenty-something women, we can tell you that we haven’t made that much noise while conveying our attraction for a guy (or anything else) since we were in junior high. That’s not to say that proclaiming we’ve found a guy we like doesn’t elicit a few exclamation points, but, goodness gracious, please exercise a degree of caution if you have surround sound.
Dana De Armond makes a brief appearance for a sex scene in the office bathroom with Xander Corvus, who plays one of Kevin’s coworkers. She’s both delectable and brutalizing as she delivers her deadpan brand of humor, telling the self-proclaimed Casanova that despite all her infidelities, she really wants to try again. It’s total bull and the vindication the viewer experiences watching it unfold after listening to Corvus go on and on about all the pussy he gets is deeply satisfying.
Danny Mountain, who plays Wendy’s long-term boyfriend in the beginning of the film, is the real player in the story, showing up to dump Gina’s sister with flowers and champagne, very a la Stephen Collins as Aaron Paradis in The First Wive’s Club (“But we just made love! You asked me out.” “I asked you out to tell you, but you looked so great. I thought: ‘How romantic. One last time.'”). We liked the nod to the classic all-star, girl-power flick. Well done.
Giovanni Francesco, another of Kevin’s colleagues (who ends up falling for Gina’s sister Wendy) has a limited part, but his earnestness in telling Wendy that he doesn’t just want to be a one-night thing is more than convincing. The only thing that doesn’t jive about his character is the way he pushes the love-struck Gina into the door as he runs to meet Wendy inside the house — he seems like too much of a good guy to be so dismissive, even of an apparently crazy person.
All in all, the screenplay is tightly-written, able to take the viewer into Kevin’s world and quickly establish all the relationships in play, which is not easy to do when so much of a movie is monopolized by sex scenes (in this case, the four scenes run around 15 minutes each, meaning St. James has one hour to do everything else). The sex itself is passionate, with a lot of kissing and holding, and looking into each other’s eyes. Condoms make an appearance in all four scenes, fitting for the 20-something lifestyle, especially in the one-night stand scene. The only issue we had with the sexual component of this movie was the fact that when Kevin finally has the chance to sleep with Gina, after a passionate session, he pulls out and ejaculates on her belly using his hand.
Okay, we know this is porn and people have somehow convinced studios that looking at cum is sexy, and we ourselves enjoy the occasional facial, among other things, but if you’re finally fucking the girl of your dreams, are you going to stop what you’re doing so you can orgasm using your hand? We surveyed a bunch of dudes just to be sure we weren’t out of touch and they all agreed this was patently insane. Our editrix’s father was particularly disturbed.
“I don’t know a man in his right mind who’d rather orgasm in his hand instead of doing it inside a woman,” he said, sounding as disappointed as a father might if his child had called to tell him she was quitting college to join the circus. “If this is how you kids are doing it these days, I don’t know how to help you. I feel sorry for you.”
Don’t worry, Mr. Flox. We feel exactly the same way.