I expect a lot from Sasha Grey. And I expected a lot from The Birthday Party, since it marks one of Sasha’s first cracks at directing (along with Oren Cohen). Anyone who has watched Sasha Grey in action knows just how dirty she can be, so my expectations for The Birthday Party were similar to the ones I had for Live In My Secrets, a Kimberly Kane film with a gritty and somewhat terrifying trailer. I expected something raw, something grimy, something dramatic and unexpected.
What I got was something stereotypical dressed up as something unique.
The Birthday Party consists of four vignettes. The film is shot in widescreen, but for some implausible reason, is presented in letterbox. Each scene begins with a little too much build up, usually in slow motion, with fast and repetitive music over it. The scenes are altered in terms of color, which is about the most innovative thing about the film. But all the color tinting in the world can’t make mediocre porn any better.
The first scene begins with Sasha eating a cupcake. I didn’t think I could get sick of watching Sasha Grey consume a cupcake, but I did. It just went on for too long.
Then a total bro of a guy, very fittingly named Chris Johnson, comes into the picture. The rest of the scene takes place on the floor, on plastic. This scene is tinted a greenish yellow, which makes skin look rather sickly. Not much happens. Sasha moans “fuck” a lot, Chris says “suck my cock” and “yes, fuck me” a couple times, his balls look hairy in the gross light, and… that’s about it. Sasha tosses out some of her token dirty sayings, but Chris never reacts to them. Sasha is at her best when she’s feeding off the energy of her partner(s), and this Chris dude gives nothing.
And as for Chris, I’m torn between wanting to see his face so I can remember there is a person there (and not just a random cock) and not wanting to see him because he looks like a douche.
The second scene begins with a piñata, which is annoyingly never broken, as Alyssa Reece moves quickly to spanking Madelyn Marie with the lousy piñata stick. This scene, which is tinted orange (mmm, fake tan color), can be summed up easily: they each use vibrators on each other, sometimes at the same time, while moaning too much. And Madelyn keeps biting her lip, as if to demonstrate how very sexy she is. Way too fake-lesbian for me, and incredibly unimaginative.
Chris “No Personality” Johnson is back in scene three, getting it on with Jessica Bangkok on a table decorated with a birthday tablecloth. The hands-and-knees blowjob that Jessica gives Chris is decent, and the lighting is finally a little more balanced (though still yellowy), but the sex is just not good. Jessica’s moans are repetitive, obnoxious, and make me wonder if she moans “so deep!” to every guy she fucks. I suppose if you enjoy the sound of dog toys squeaking, you will enjoy Jessica’s moaning. Really. It’s bad.
I guess scene four is the high point. I don’t really know. It definitely has some of the hottest moments, but they come at a price. This scene is a threesome between Sasha, Alyssa, and Jana Jordan. It begins with the best build-up of the film, as the girls open a bottle of champagne and spray each other with it, giggling all the while. Cute, but as I dreaded, the giggles carry into the scene.
Alyssa and Jana just can’t keep their mouths shut. These are the kinds of girls who giggle and say “mmm” when nothing at all is happening to them, girls who appear to be suddenly amidst orgasm the moment a vibrator, tongue, or finger touches their clit. Thus, the scene is overrun with fake moaning that is impossible to tune out.
And all I want to hear and see is Sasha. She looks scrumptious as hell, with her hair all messy from the champagne. And hey, I never get sick of watching her being pleasured and pleasuring others. Turn Alyssa and Jana’s voices off, and this would be a good scene.
The only bonus features are an 8-minute photo gallery and and 4.5-minute feature about Sasha’s experience in New York while filming The Girlfriend Experience. Sasha looks super hot in skinny jeans, but this selection of extras is pretty lame.
The truth is, Sasha Grey herself is the only performer I genuinely enjoyed watching in The Birthday Party; the rest of the stars were bland (Chris Johnson) or obnoxious (all the other women). The birthday theme could’ve been developed much further, making for some really unique scenarios (à la Sasha and Kimberly’s “blood” scene in Live In My Secrets), but it wasn’t — as though putting a birthday hat on someone’s head and handing them a cupcake is enough to set the tone. They could’ve at least broken the piñata.
Perhaps if you go into The Birthday Party with no expectations of greatness, it will seem like a decent porno. It certainly isn’t horrible, and is briefly enjoyable at several junctures. But this is Sasha Grey we’re talking about — the queen of hotness and raunchiness. And this film is severely lacking both hotness and raunchiness.
Rent The Birthday Party here.
[Read this review on XCritic.]