½*/**** Image C+ Sound C+ Extras C+
starring Julie Davis, Nick Chinlund, Caroline Aaron, Mitchell Whitfield
written and directed by Julie Davis
by Walter Chaw It's one thing to make a film about a person who's terminally self-indulgent and stricken with delusions of grandeur, another altogether to make a film that endorses its insufferable main character's unrepentant egotism. Julie Davis's abrasively cute Amy's O... is ninety minutes of watching someone masturbate while fantasizing about herself--there are enough lines of dialogue here about our heroine's overpowering beauty and great tits that it starts to resemble There's Something About Mary without the attendant sense of self-awareness and irony.
Amy's O... is a comedy dealing with sexual obsession that has no clear idea of the cultural anthropology informing the neo-feminist platform from which Davis pontificates--it's "Caroline in the City" carried off by a director (Davis writes, directs, and stars) who, over the course of four films (Witchcraft VI, I Love You, Don't Touch Me!, All Over the Guy), has shown herself to be better suited as a sitcom director. The movie isn't about the gender divide as much as it's about contriving opportunities for her to mug at the camera and prattle on in a continual high-pitched shriek; watch it (if you must) with the volume control handy.
Amy (Davis) is a sex-fearing, man-hating self-help author-cum-Scarlett O'Hara likewise in need and eventual recipient of a nice therapeutic fucking. Her misogynistic Rhett is Matthew (Nick Chinlund), a shock-jock in the Stern mold who is more of a bore than a boor, rendering his transformation into Amy's whipped cunnilingus gimp less of an evolution than a fait accompli. Every scene is dominated by Amy's coy look, her superior look, and her facile opines on masculine Madonna/Whore complexes and the importance of her Jewishness in forgiving her non-stop kvetching and moaning. The horror. The horror.
Reminding of Charles Herman-Wurmfeld's infinitely superior (but still not so great) Kissing Jessica Stein, Amy's O... is a low-budget vanity piece (almost the definition of "low-budget" and "vain") by a buttermilk auteur unable to distinguish between thumbscrew and screwball. The revelations are not only unsurprising, they dance dangerously close to the edge of misanthropic, condescending, dated, and insulting. Preposterous at its best, self-maimingly poor at its worst, Amy's O... is a nightmare date with a half-formed wit done a great disservice by a lack of critical distance and a sad trust in liberal arts college bumper sticker platitudes.
Amy's O... finds its way to DVD on the Sundance imprint in a soft 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen presentation. Grain is evident throughout and there are occasional instances of digital artifacts, but the video's imperfections do little to distract (or aid) Davis's auto-absorption. The Dolby 2.0 audio mix is dedicatedly uninteresting. Packed with underwhelming extras, the first is a feature-length commentary featuring Davis, actress Caroline Aaron, and, midway, "advisor" Don Bloomfield. Davis reveals that her control-freak, endlessly chattering Amy is more than a little autobiographical, while Aaron and Bloomfield take turns massaging her ego. The bigger they are, it appears, the more they need stroking. There is a level of self-delusion in here that actually manages to make the film's original soundtrack the preferable one--colour me surprised that anything could.
A three-minute "making of" docu called "Afterthoughts" features, surprise, Davis going on and on about how making the picture was cathartic for her and so on mixed with a few cuts from the film. A non-chaptered, uncommented-upon deleted scenes section plays suspiciously like stuff made exclusively for a DVD deleted scenes section--the cutesy scoring is a dead giveaway. A few excerpts show themselves to be first shots and B-roll rather than real deleted scenes (another mark of hauteur is the belief that people are interested in first takes), while a handful (including a strange male-rape carried out by Joe Somebody's Julie Bowen) demonstrate that for all the excrescence of the picture, it could have been a lot worse.
"Snapshot Diaries from Sundance" feature quick impressions of the festival from Austin Chick and Rebecca Miller (shrug); a "Coming Soon from Sundance" is a preview of The Sleepy Time Gal, a weblink for the Sundance Channel homepage that clues one in to a DVD-ROM option opens your browser to the channel for you, a brief technical credits page, and an irritating trailer for Amy's O... round out the disc. Originally published: January 29, 2002.