By Bob Westal | November 20, 2003

Everyone knows that holding on to your integrity in Hollywood filmmaking is hard. How much harder is it in San Fernando Valley porn?
That is the question of the day for Nora (Annette O’Toole), a porn star turned Aerotic auteur. Prone to fits of ego and addicted to leftish New Age jargon, Nora decides to leave the skin business and decamp to the more karmically friendly clime of San Francisco. Helping her along is her impossibly accommodating, aging rocker of a husband, Phil (Lyn Vaus). Phil may seem a complete nebbish, and perhaps suffering from the lingering effect of one too many qualudes, but he’s aware enough to know the couple are on the edge of fiscal ruin.
All that changes when a decades old out-take turns out to contain a major sitcom star (Annette Murphy) engaged in some hardcore girl-on-girl hijinks. It’s a porno gold mine for any ordinary bottom-feeder, but for Nora, ever concerned with the keeping her karma tuned up, it presents a major conflict between Goddess and mammon. Phil keeps trying to remind her of the reality of the situation as more and more people keep smelling the money — including Wind, her long-lost lip-stick lesbian lawyer daughter, who now goes by the less embarrassing name of Morgan (Elisabeth Moss).
Filmed in a style facetiously designated “Dogme 69”, “Temptation” is a bit too loose for its own good. Still, there’s plenty of great stuff here, mostly because of outstanding performances by the two leads.
Annette O’Toole is best known these days as Clark Kent’s adoptive mom on the WB’s “Smallville” — thoroughly commits to her role as a conflicted super-diva. Believably changing her mind every other moment and rationalizing bad behavior with an utter lack of concern for ordinary logic, Ms. O’Toole, who just happens to be married to Michael McKean, displays a genuine gift for improvisational comedy.
Still, the real discovery of “Temptation” may be co-producer/writer Lyn Vaus, who does for p***y whipped males what James Dean did for misunderstood teens, investing his character with genuine tortured dignity in a genuinely bad haircut. It’s one of the funniest performances I’ve seen in some time, down to Phil’s insanely gentle monotone. (Queried at a post-screening Q&A, Vaus, whose actual speaking voice is considerably lower pitched, responded that he took it from the tone he uses when addressing his pets.)
Complete with near-obligatory cameos from real porn stars, including Randy West, Kiki Daire and Bridget the Midget, “Temptation” and its “Dogme 69″ aesthetic may not be the beginning of any world-wide cinematic movement, but it’s a likeably cynical satire on the need for certain show business types to pretend that it’s not really money that matters.

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