Hooking Up (Raineau, 2020)

I watched Hooking Up what seems like a lifetime ago, but my e-mail tells me that it was just last week. The plan was to make recommendations for the socially distant and maybe even speculate on whether a temporary slackening of traffic at movie theaters might help some direct to video projects find a broader audience.

Well that was then and this, as they say, is now.

Recent releases are going straight to streaming (albeit at inflated prices). Theaters are selling virtual tickets, particularly to foreign and indie-film audiences. Some people may well be looking for lighter fare, but there are a lifetime of favorites to revisit in the more commercial vein and in times of stress I think viewers tend to return to old favorites rather than expanding their horizons.

None of that would matter if Hooking Up were a better movie than it ultimately is. It’s a road trip, sex farce, interracial romcom, cancer movie. Bailey has testicular cancer. Darla is a sex addict who recently lost her job as a magazine writer and thinks she’ll get it back by pitching a piece where she revisits every place she’s ever had sex. Her number is supposedly 186 (do people over 100 keep counting?) and his is two. Films have been built on less, but the screenplay never really moves beyond the pitch premise.

It tries. There are speeches about slut shaming and the meaning of life and learning to love yourself, but rather than committing to any one idea about what the story will be about, the film just pinballs from one set piece to another. Sam Richardson and Brittany Snow are likable as the leads, and Vivica A. Fox shows up in a what-is-she-doing-in-this-movie cameo.

Probably the best I could say for Hooking Up is that it bears a faint resemblance to better movies. In particular, the structure created by revisiting past sexual encounters is reminiscent of High Fidelity. The sex addiction stuff can’t help but call to mind Thanks For Sharing. Unfortunately, though, the film merely echoes these influences rather than examining or tweaking them.

There is, I realize, a painful irony in watching a moving about people being casually intimate while the world around me practices social distancing. There’s nothing quite like a disruptive world event to make one question notions that might have been taken for granted before. One of the questions I have been wrestling with for the last week is whether we (humanity or certain cultures within it) can learn to live differently or can only be forced to live differently by circumstances. I’m not talking specifically about sex here. I’m just wondering if people, en masse, ever really change for the better? If an individual can wake up one morning and realize, “Hey, the way I am living is no good,” does that mean multiple people can realize that at once? Perhaps their doing so seems rare because we have so many media and cultural messages supporting the status quo.

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