John Cameron Mitchell's short-nipped 2001 Hedwig and the Angry Inch is followed up by the raucous Shortbus- a toe-curling sexploration of a group of people whose repressive lives intertwine in a New York City sex boutique called Shortbus.
Shortbus is the Crash of self-discovery through sex-discovery where control is the ultimate happiness buzz kill. Sex therapist, Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) and husband Rob (Raphael Barker) eventually work out their marital problems by discovering their inner passions via the help of the dominatrix Severin (Lindsay Beamish). James (Paul Dawson) and Jamie (PJ DeBoy) who are at a dead end in their 5-year relationship and in life find the promise land in a third guy Ceth (Jay Brannan). And then there is the stalker Caleb (Peter Stickles) who photographs James and Jamie from across the street. All of these seemingly one-dimensional scenarios come together with unexpected, graphic and multi-dimensional flair on the Shortbus- a clever pun on the small cheese bus of the misunderstood.
Does our true meaning and happiness lie within the handicaps we perceive as weak? The movement through Shortbus isn't as transparent as any straight-limited synopsis. That's just too predictable and unrealistic for the average prescription Jane that thinks they have it all together. The film pays homage to the narcissist in all of us all. Our own personal miseries are an indication that we've ignored our true passions under the guise that we've mastered the wheel of destiny.
Shortbus begs caution that our present journeys may not just include our sole preservation. We see through the lead characters in Shortbus that our own plans sometimes unknowingly take a back seat to greater ones. That may include saving one life or aiding the discovery of another. Our journeys are forever intertwined. Could opening ourselves up to our suppressed emotional and sexual feelings lead us to the answer of our existence that we're all searching for? I guess we'll all have to take a trip on the shortbus and find out for ourselves.
One word of caution: At times Shortbus's overloaded sex scenes are too in your face to leave room for interpretations beyond sex discovery. The sexually secure will commend Mitchell's bravery, but the prude may not make it past the opening scene... But, perhaps the latter is for whom Shortbus was intended.