Director Jay Buim’s feature debut, Adventures in Success, explores the legacy of a women’s sexual fulfillment cult. Taking place back when Walkmans ruled the earth, this mockumentary follows the teachings of Peggy (Lexie Mountain), who feels the ills of the world can be healed through the harnessed energy of the female orgasm. Using a method known as “Jilling Off,” she leads women to waves of transcendental climaxes. With the help of Nina (Nina Tarr), Asia (Asia Lee Boostani), and newly arrived Erica (Yaz Perea), Peggy is dedicated to saving Mother Earth through lap blasting.
The men of the group help fulfill this by giving themselves to female pleasure while ignoring their urges. No squirty allowed, gents. This denial of ejaculation creates tension amongst the males, who pop off about it amongst themselves behind closed doors. The townies of the Catskills community the cult has moved to aren’t crazy about their new neighbors. Soon Peggy finds herself being threatened by town hall permit hearings and from within by financial mismanagement. Will her cult be able to complete its mission without being struck down by the outside world or a tsunami of backed-up spermatozoa?
Adventures in Success, written by Buim, Susan Juvet, and Rachel Gayle Webster, strives for a hard-to-hit sweet spot. While acknowledging the comedic elements of its saucy premise, it doesn’t skew juvenile or devolve into sexploitation, as one would expect. It isn’t wacky nor tacky, as the film attempts to develop real dramatics with the sex cult material. The philosophy that Peggy expounds is far-reaching but not unsound. Many characters bring real-world trauma with them that is addressed.
“…Peggy…feels the ills of the world can be healed through the harnessed energy of the female orgasm.”
After the comedy of the set-up is exhausted, the story turns serious, with the drama kicking in. It is a hybrid model that has allowed many movies to exceed the limitations of genre expectations. The film invests a lot of structure in its philosophy, with Mountain doing an excellent job as the cult leader. She has a commanding charisma but allows vulnerability to slip in. You can imagine her leading a large-scale movement, even one as ludicrous as this. Tarr also turns in an excellent performance as Peggy’s lieutenant. With the help of their performances, the proceedings are never dull.
However, Adventures in Success doesn’t pay off in a major way. I enjoy dry humor, but this is as dry as a bad Thanksgiving turkey. More surprised coughs than belly laughs here. Maybe this will improve on subsequent viewings, but you need a reason to do so. The drama is there, but it doesn’t result in a satisfying climax. Maybe it is because Peggy is not a villain, and maybe that was the wrong choice on the part of Buim and company. I can understand the urge to make Peggy a visionary who overreaches instead of a flat-out false prophet, but it does dilute the emotional engagements.
Also, the movie seems to swerve away from anything that could resemble a set piece or highpoint. The town dodgeball game was good but nowhere near enough. One scene that sounded like it could have been a laugh riot is instead described second-hand in an interview with security guards. While there are a lot of elements, including an intriguing musical number, they don’t manage to ignite into a satisfying experience. While worth a spin for the oddity of its world, Adventures in Success does not find a lot of success as an overall experience.
"…worth a spin for the oddity of its world..."