BNFF11 REVIEW: Webdultery [2011]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: NR | Runtime: 90 minutes | Release Date: 2011 (Canada)
Studio: SuperChannel / Traverse Media
Director(s): Charles Wahl
Writer(s): Charles Wahl

“I still love him … it’s just not the same anymore”

Can having ‘fun’ with a stranger while in a tough marriage save your family from complete destruction? Charles Wahl’s film Webdultery explores the question from both the male and female perspective—two people who fell in love at 20 and now, with a young son, are unable to stand the other long enough to admit there’s a problem. Screened at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, the drama starts with some levity, disarming the audience into a state of open-mindedness as they watch Deb (Christine Tizzard) and Fred (Anthony Cortese) hang with friends at a party. There’s still a spark and it is New Year’s Eve, but even with their son away at his grandparents, a mix of alcohol, the lack of complete spontaneity to make love upstairs during the party, and months devoid of physical contact cause sleep to replace sex as the evening becomes just one more in a long line of frustrating nights. So they retreat to internet chat rooms to vent, consider using a website to find like-minded souls in search of a no-strings-attached relationship, and hope the indiscretion can get them over the hump and back into the arms of the one they love.

But the world of internet dating is a fickle one that definitely differs between the sexes. While Deb finds 100-plus message, (mostly crass), and even more ‘winks’ after one night on the site, Fred needs a few days to get his first connection—and even then it’s a prostitute. So we watch the two in cross-cut as Deb labors at her soaring Hollywood job and meets men for lunch while Fred attempts to begin Chapter 15 of his first novel, only to find himself doing anything but. She wants to get beyond their troubles therapeutically, talking to her best friend Lisa (Rebecca Nicholson), talking to a friendly stranger online, and meeting men in the afternoon to see what happens. He, being a writer, escapes into fantasy, often finding himself imaginatively engaged in sexual trysts with the never-ending stream of beautiful women exiting his neighbor’s condo or quick bursts of interest from his wife’s best friend. She wants him to get a job and contribute to the family’s well being; he wants her to support his decision to write a novel rather than magazine columns and be around long enough to have a conversation.

Both are stubborn, both feel trapped, and neither is willing to take the first step towards reconciliation, finding themselves fight in front of their son and only get farther and farther apart. Lisa is not the best person for Deb to go to for advice since she only appears to get excited at the prospect of her friend cheating, living vicariously through her and maybe working up the nerve to do it as well. And Fred’s confidant isn’t much better as O’Keefe (Kevin Kincaid) is not only a philanderer who dates as many women as he can, living like a monkey with a hand on a new branch at all times, but he is also Deb’s brother. Fred can’t very well speak his wandering thoughts to him and O’Keefe’s constant tales of kinky sex, exotic positions, and young girl after young girl only pushes his friend closer and closer to taking the next step in breaking his vows. Their home life gets harder, they spend less and less time together, and besides Jack needing homework help and a want for parental normalcy, they’d have gone their separate ways long before. And things don’t get better once the affairs become more than just fantasy.

Wahl has crafted an intriguing yarn with its fair share of pros and cons disseminated from all angles. He also makes it obvious to viewers that no matter what advice two people in the situation Fred and Deb are in get, they will do whatever it is they want to do. O’Keefe does his best to talk to the duo and find out whether they still love each other. When both admit they do, his stern order of working things out seems like such an easy fix. If a man-whore like him can understand the sanctity of marriage—it’s this knowledge that keeps him from getting married, after all—why can’t they? Deb even sees her coworker/boss Julie (Catherine McNally) seem completely smitten with her husband after fifteen years of marriage, but that happiness only amplifies her own indifference, adding fuel to the cheating fire rather than a reason to leave fairy tales behind and do what she can to save her family. I’ll admit that Fred gets shone in a mildly better light during the film as Deb must engage in more indiscretions I think simply because she is a woman—and maybe the preconception men cheat helps—but they are equally at fault.

It’s a tough subject that hits close to home for many and Webdultry gets it right with an independent aesthetic. There are conveniences in regards to the plot I will not reveal since they do add to the tale when uncovered, but even though many are contrived, border-line lazy writing, they don’t feel like it. Coincidences occur and the fact Deb gets a ‘match’ from her brother proves anything is possible in anonymous website usage. The big reveal is shown early so we can anticipate the climactic moment forthcoming, wondering which way things may go when the characters find out themselves. Both outcomes are shown and both could very well work in the context of the film, but I applaud Wahl and company for choosing the correct finish. Nothing in marriage or relationship is easy and a movie about those themes shouldn’t be either. With the great comic relief from Kincaid—stealing each and every scene he’s in and fantastic in a gag after the credits—the drama between Deb and Fred is allowed to be authentically dark. Cortese is good at conveying his feelings, best when sex is involved, but it is Tizzard who truly embodies the turmoil within and keeps you thinking about the fine line between right and wrong.


photography:
courtesy of Webdultery official site

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