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How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town (2016)

howtoplanIt’s pretty remarkable how so many good actors can be in such a sub-par unfunny situation comedy. It’s also pretty surprising how a movie centered around sex and orgies really ends about as blandly and vanilla as pound cake. “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town” is yet another of those slice of life dramas, where a city bound thirty something protagonist goes back to their old town to re-visit the ghosts of their past and discover something about themselves. We saw it in “Garden State,” “Beautiful Girls,” “Junebug,” and about a hundred other dramas since the early nineties.

“How to Plan…” is really no different, unfortunately. Jewel Staite is very good as a young city goer named Cassie who is called back to her conservative small town after her strict mother dies. Years before, Cassie was virtually slut shamed out of her town after she was caught in the middle of sex with her boyfriend Adam, and rebelliously ran through town topless to defy her judgmental mother. Cassie dashes back in to her old town for the sake of possibly collecting an inheritance due debts. Quickly she realizes that everyone she knew from high school have all become virtually sexually repressed and are anxiously looking for an outlet to relieve their sexual tension.

Rather than making the film about Cassie’s entire conflict with the town and her ticking clock that involves her publisher likely suing her for not delivering a new book in time, writer Jeremy Lalonde scatters the narrative to various characters. Sadly, most of the characters are dealt conflicts that are either unresolved, or painfully underdeveloped. One of the few moments involving a married pregnant couple seeking the orgy out as a means of bringing the wife in to labor is a rare glimmer of comedy that is much too abrupt. There’s the town reject who is hell bent on getting people to attend his party, and the very half hearted theme about motherhood. Katharine Isabelle is woefully underused with a sub-plot never quite amounting to a fascinating bit of conflict, and there’s Cassie’s entire past with Adam which feels more obligatory than anything.

That said, there are some finer moments, including Tommie-Amber Pirie who eventually seeks an exit out of town after meeting Cassie. Lauren Lee Smith is also a stand out as town prude Heather who will do whatever it takes to get pregnant. With such a talented cast, “How to Plan an Orgy…” could have been quite fantastic. But in the end it’s all nothing but a tonally unbalanced and mediocre slog through sitcom devices, and near endless palaver.