A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hooking Up is a comedy about a sex addict and a testicular cancer patient. Darla (Brittany Snow) writes about her sexual exploits, which include trysts in public areas like a kindergarten classroom, an airport bathroom, and more. Expect lots of crass sexual slang, nonstop conversation about intercourse, and plenty of scenes of doing the deed. For Darla, sex isn't an act of affection, so there's almost no kissing or intimacy, just lots of unbuckling of pants and sexual noises/facial expressions (there's little nudity). Darla also visits porn websites; one scene shows a real adult film in which the star's breasts are exposed while she has sex. The filmmakers' intention is to swap viewers' gender expectations, but, at least in Darla's case, she's behaving like a male stereotype: self-absorbed, inconsiderate, blunt, and generally not nice. It also seems like the film is aiming to be sex positive, and it challenges viewers to retreat from the idea that Darla should be ashamed. But then we learn from Darla's actions that she's done shameful things and is, in fact, a sex addict, which nullifies the movie's attempt to balance Hollywood's portrayals of women and sex. Darla smokes cigarettes, Bailey gets drunk, and there's quite a bit of profanity ("f--k," "s--t," and more). Sam Richardson co-stars.
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What's the story?
In HOOKING UP, sex columnist Darla (Brittany Snow) is desperate to get rehired by the city magazine she's been working at for years. When she meets Bailey (Sam Richardson), a cancer patient who must remove both testicles to be disease free, she believes she's stumbled on the perfect assignment: a sexual road trip to give Bailey his last hurrah all across America.
Is it any good?
Adult audiences often love shockingly raunchy comedy, but writer-director Nico Raineau's feature debut is a sex comedy that's not sexy, not funny, and not worthy of its two lead actors. First off, it's more accurate to say that the main characters are "getting laid," literally participating in an act for an outcome, rather than taking any enjoyment in the act. That's intentional: The plot drives home the fact that there's no intimacy between Darla and Bailey. They don't "meet cute" so much as "meet obnoxious" in the hallways of an elementary school where different support groups convene. Their "relationship," if you can call it that, is a stunt. They're strangers when they embark on their sex-a-thon across America, reliving Darla's many sexcapades. Bailey, who's nursing a broken heart and worrying about the lump in his one remaining testicle, goes along with it thinking it's an assignment to help her break her addiction. Of course, that's not his only motivation: By engaging in many, many acts of intercourse, he's exacting revenge of sorts on his fiancée, who has no idea that her ex is no longer in remission. (And he's the good guy.)
When good actors show up in terrible movies, we always have to wonder why. For Richardson, Hooking Up is an opportunity to show that he's romantic leading man material. As for Snow, probably best known as Pitch Perfect's prim Chloe, she's said that she produced this film to combat typecasting. She's already proven adept at delivering snappy dialogue, and irreverent Darla lets her continue to flex that skill set. But Snow doesn't succeed in making us care about her unlikable character. And while Richardson is expressive and sympathetic, he doesn't own the role. Any decent actor could have delivered similar results. The worst part about Hooking Up is that it destroys its own attempts to balance sexpectations. Argument: A woman who wants to sleep with multiple partners isn't a bad person! Outcome: She's actually a sex addict whose acts of indulgence have left a trail of hurt. Argument: It's not unmanly to only want to have sex with one woman! Outcome: That character has both testicles surgically removed -- yes, he's literally emasculated. Talk about defeating the purpose.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Hooking Up portrays sex. Is it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
The filmmakers believe that Hooking Up is "sex positive." Do you know what that means? If so, do you agree?
How are drinking and smoking portrayed? Do you think the film sends the message that you should drink when you're upset? Do you think smoking is shown as cool because Darla is attractive and witty or uncool because she's troubled?
How does Bailey demonstrate empathy toward Darla? In what ways is Darla not empathetic toward Bailey? What's your opinion about the ending, when Bailey states that Darla's lack of kindness regarding his medical diagnosis is just what he needed? Why is empathy an important character strength?
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