Enthusiastic Sinners begins as a parody of a porn scene. Small town police officer Bruce Durant (Christopher Heard) responds to Shelby Harrison’s (Maggie Alexander) home after a report of shots fired, which turns out to be a false alarm. Instead of domestic violence, he finds domestic horniness as the lady is widowed and has been a long time out on the dry, dusty trail. She finds herself suddenly ready for a gunslinger and a shootout at her OK Corral. Dear Penthouse forum, long time reader, first time writer. I never believed anything like this would ever really happen to me…
Conveniently, apparently, there’s not much need for police presence in this unnamed town, because the cop decides he is the man to break the seal for her and decides to hang out for the next 24 hours.
The complexity in this situation is that he’s married and she’s deranged. Neither of those facts causes either to tap the brakes as they embark on a full-tilt circadian sex-crazed first date.
Through the night as they experiment with sex, drugs, and bondage, this unexpected tryst reveals to each of them that they are perfectly ideal partners for one another. Of all the basement garages in all the world, he had to walk into hers.
Watching them is reminiscent of the scene in Kevin Smith’s Zack, and Miri Make a Porno wherein Seth Rogan, and Elizabeth Banks have sex for the first time, and on camera. For two friends with an unspoken romantic attraction, the experience is shattering and profound. It’s hair-metal-power-ballad fireworks and bombs bursting in air. Switching to the perspective of the crew filming the scene, it’s just awkwardly dull and uninspired watching ordinary people you’d probably sooner not see naked. Craig Robinson declares it’s the worst porno he’s ever seen.
With Enthusiastic Sinners, it is the hapless film viewer who is stuck on the outside compelled to observe what is meant to be a revelatory experience for the characters. The filmmakers fail to make the connections to put us in the scene, and it seems a little creepily voyeuristic peering in at this train wreck in progress, unless that’s your thing, of course. There’s just no contextual on-ramp to make us care.
Near the end of their magical day, there’s a familiar moment where they muse over whether they’ll talk if they pass each other on the street.
“…they experiment with sex, drugs, and bondage, this unexpected tryst reveals to each of them that they are perfectly ideal partners…“
The script is a worst-case compromise between the screenwriter angel and devil on your shoulder, one advocating for a Nicholas Sparks soft-focus, breathless romance, and the other who’s a git-er-done horn-dog wanting to see nudity and a bit of the old in out, in out. The result is neither great porn nor great filmmaking.
Perhaps a framing device would have helped. Maybe this is the policeman’s rose-colored memories of his recently deceased second wife, like a backwoods How I Met Your Mother, or this is her afternoon masturbation bubble bath fantasy of a dashing man in uniform walking into the garage and taking her like the vixen she is.
To be clear, if this happened to me or you, we’d be talking about it for the rest of our lives, it just doesn’t translate as something you want to watch. When your friend breathlessly ran in to tell you her dream last night was about a tentacled monster at the courthouse steps, and she tried to run but she couldn’t: it’s boring if it’s not you.
The performances by Heard and Alexander are solid, and production value is high. It’s very graphic: the movie includes nudity, sexual situations, drugs, bondage, and is obviously meant for adults only. It’s just not clear why.
Enthusiastic Sinners (2019) Written and directed by Mark Lewis. Starring Christopher Heard, Maggie Alexander.
5 out of 10