Why Can't Kate Winslet Keep Her Clothes On?

on Friday, April 03, 2009  

I'm going to say this despite the harsh criticism I'm going to take for it: watching Jack Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger "go at it" in Brokeback Mountain made me uncomfortable. "Why?" You ask angrily, "Why is it okay to show HETEROsexual people having sex but not HOMOsexual people having sex, hmm? Is it less beautiful? INTOLERANCE!"


I don't know what just happened, or why you're yelling at me. The thing is, I am uncomfortable in a lot of sex scenes. I find it very strange, sitting in a crowded theatre and watching two people share what should be a private intimate moment. "Prude!" I hear you say. "It's art!" And again, I'll retort: it CAN be art, but it isn't always. If the mere act of showing consummation were art, Debbie Does Dallas would be a modern day Mona Lisa. There's a time and there's a place for sex scenes, and a lot of the times they aren't use properly.*

There's also an art form known as subtlety, which is what is vanishing in today's love scenes. I remember watching In Harm's Way starring John Wayne. To make it clear that he and this woman were about to get their freak on, it showed her smile and take off one shoe. That might be an extreme in the other direction, but it still gets the point across. Would it have been better to show their bodies entangled in a three minute love scene? Do I really lose a sense of the romance in Titanic when all I can see of the sex between Jack and Rose is a hand print on a steamy window?

Which brings me to the star of the article: recent Academy Award winner for Best Actress, Kate Winslet. Many actresses have a no-nudity clause in their contracts; I think Winslet's has a nudity-requirement. The chick can't star in a movie without stripping down. I saw The Reader recently, and for the first third wondered if she won the award for having the most frequent, uncomfortable sex scenes imaginable. If you have seen it, you might know what I'm talking about, and I defy you to tell me they were all necessary. We get it, the young man and the older lady have a lot of sex. Like a lot. Like so much sex it makes Pamela Anderson jealous.

But we really don't need to see it. And here's the thing, the rest of the film absolutely thrives on subtlety. And it's incredible. The second two-thirds of that movie, where there is an actual plot and not just incessant boning, presented some of the best scenes I've ever... seen (damn Homophones...). You could have cut fifteen minutes of the film without it losing anything. And to assuage Kate Winslet we can still have her get naked. I'm not saying NO sex scenes, I'm just saying it became incredibly absurd when every four minutes another one pops up (no pun intended... I made it worse, didn't I?)

It's a fine line, and I'm sure there are many opinions on the subject. I think it can be done right, and it can be done wrong. The Reader's were a little frequent. If it's a comedy, it damn well better be hilarious or it will come off as insanely awkward (see: Knocked Up). I might argue (I'd have to mull this over) that a sex scene must show more than love, lust, or passion, because those can all be conveyed other ways, and if it is used to show those things it must be very careful. I'm sure there will be disagreements, go ahead and post them!

*To Brokeback fans, I know what the point was. It was to make all those people comfortable with heterosexual love scenes be confronted by a homosexual one. I maintain it wasn't necessary to tell the story it was trying to tell, or that it could have been done differently. In fact, I think it took something away from the movie, as it is now primarily remembered for it's 'shocking' sex scene than for the love story it actually told.

**Kate Winslet has recently said she will no longer be nude as her children are getting to that age when it's awkward. Evidently she forgot about DVDs and the internet...

6 comments:

Andrew J said...

Agree to agree. She spends a lot of time naked in Little Children and Iris as well, both of which were fantastic movies despite (not because of) her constant nudity.

1576 said...

I really like this post! I love subtlety in general because it makes you feel more involved with what you're watching - it brings the imagination into the movie-watching experience. I feel like most sex scenes in particular are there just to expand the target audience, which is annoying and somehow morally displeasing.
Assuage... haha

victoria said...

you should check out some Mexican movies, or maybe not since sex scenes make you uncomfortable. Sex scenes in Mexican movies are a lot more crude. They don't want you to see the passion or the love, they just show you sex like it is and for what it is. I guess it's a different approach than American cinema.

anyways! totally agree about some sex scenes being just over-rated. they make me uncomfortable too, specially depending on who I'm watching the movie with!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think the sex scenes with all that nudity is just a cheap device to attract horny teenagers to the show. It's a blow to subtlety and kills the mood that was supposed to be romantic. It's death to cinematic art I think, and sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't just watch a porn movie.

Anonymous said...

i don't think that sex scenes make teens go to the movies, boys watch porn at home, they don't need to cinema for that. I have to say that I like kate, she has just chosen those movies, I don't believe that she is interested about sex scenes, she thinks "Oh it's just my work!" if you are actor/actress you have just admit that someday you have to do sex scene. But I think that she should do movies where isn't so many sex scenes. I can imagine how her children come to ask for her "Mom, why you're naked in this film, why you're having sex with this guy in this film?" What she'll answer I don't know... What a situation... Sometimes sex scenes are awful to watch but it depends on it who is watching the movie with me...

Anonymous said...

I agree that too often sex scenes are tacted on for audience draw, but when it has an impact on the plot I see no problem. In fact, that scene from In Harm's Way was a good example of how subtly can ruin something. She smiled and took off her shoe. The fact that they show nothing else was actually really distracting throughout the rest of the movie. I kept thinking that there had to be a reason they showed no further details, so I kept thinking they were going to go back to it and show that something else important happened after that moment. It through me off.

Post a Comment