Bad title, good movie.
But at least it’s accurate. Love & Air Sex is about love, and air sex. What is air sex? It’s an elaborate form of pantomime in which the participant pretends to have sex with an invisible partner. That sounds easy enough, but presentation counts and so does your narrative. Anyone can fake thrust the air in front of them, but crafting a detailed scenario in which your ex-girlfriend’s wide vagina stands in for Carlsbad Caverns will earn you points for creativity.
That premise – it’s a real thing – is a flimsy foundation for a movie, so Love & Air Sex spends a lot more time on the love. Stan (Michael Stahl-David) recently broke up with his girlfriend Cathy (The Last Exorcism’s Ashley Bell), but discovers that she’s returning to their home town of Austin, TX after some routine Facebook stalking. So he heads back home himself to “coincidentally” run into her, and winds up embroiled in the aftermath of another recent breakup between his best friend, Jeff (Zach Cregger), and Cathy’s best friend Kara (Sara Paxton), who violently despise each other.
That premise is also a flimsy foundation for a movie, but director and co-writer Bryan Poyser – along with co-writers by David DeGrow Shotwell and Steven Walters – knows how to make it work, punching up the drunken romantic pining and casual comedic set-ups with some outlandish and genuinely funny sex mimes. Jeff is competing in the Air Sex Championship (for free booze), not because it’s his life ambition but because it’s all he’s got. His apartment sucks. His girlfriend left him. His best friend moved away to Los Angeles. Impersonating a horny Tyrannosaurus to the cheers of a slurry crowd is the one thing he seems to be good at, so this silly concept reaches an unexpected level of genuine drama because the movie underplays it. The temptation to go full Dodgeball must have been so strong.
It also helps that, as familiar as these early 20’s post-breakup shenanigans are, the characters treat them reasonably. Nobody pretends their whole world is imploding, they’re just sad, or acting on an impulse to make themselves feel better. Kara is sleeping with just about everyone because she felt trapped in a monogamous relationship too young. Jeff behaves like a lout because he hasn’t come to grips with his disappointment over losing Kara. Stan wants Cathy back but only until he realizes she isn’t his only hope for romance. Cathy wants to move on but has to acknowledge that Stan still matters to her. It’s hardly Shakespeare, but the dialogue is funny and mostly honest, and the cast makes you care about these little, almost pathetically universal problems.
Love & Air Sex never pretends to be a big movie. It has no aspirations beyond the lives of a few people with modest ambitions and simple, understandable problems. It knows that cell phones can be just as dramatic when they work as when they don’t, highlighted in one of the most amusing texting exchanges I’ve ever seen in a movie. It knows when to amplify the tiny plot with some juicy, comical shenanigans, and it knows how to play those shenanigans like something sweet and real. It’s a lovable romantic comedy with a great cast. But it could have done with a better title.