Characters in movies have been confusing sex with love or trying to use one to rectify the other since the very beginning. In general, they come to the earth-shattering conclusion that they are not the same and, though linked, the alchemy between the two cannot easily be altered.
For the audience's sake, this process goes down best when no one takes it too seriously. Miles Brandman's earnest "Sex and Breakfast" features two L.A. couples in their 20s who choose to chase away the relationship doldrums with the help of a group sex therapist (Joanna Miles) and approach it as if they were unlocking the mysteries of the universe. The results are predictable, but an attractive and willing cast eases some of the tedium.
James (Macaulay Culkin) and Heather (Alexis Dziena) are a young, puppyish couple with separate apartments. They videotape their lovemaking, and James has reached a point where he finds the moments after sex to be a profound experience giving him a sense of clarity. Heather, however, is a little less satisfied. The more aggressive and adventurous of the two, she suggests therapy, to which James reluctantly agrees.
Ellis (Kuno Becker) and Renee (Eliza Dushku) appear to be a little older and share a loft. No one in the film has anything resembling a job (or friends or any sort of life outside the relationship, for that matter), but these two must be somewhat successful at whatever it is they do because they travel around what looks like Los Feliz and Silver Lake exclusively by limo or taxi. The pair chooses group sex as a relationship energizer only after considering less hazardous options such as bungee jumping, sky diving and bullfighting.
Much of the midsection of the movie is devoted to obvious subplots that play on the jealous nature of men and only postpone the inevitable as Brandman coyly defers the therapy session until late in the movie, leaving "will they or won't they go through with it?" the only question to be answered.
That we aren't given a lot of back story or external information about these thinly drawn characters could, of course, be a good thing if it served to pull us into their predicaments or ratchet up the dramatic level. The foursome, who inhabit roughly the same neighborhood, passing gently by one another in the same artsy coffee shop, spell out their every want and need and behave so transparently that they leave little intrigue as to their motives and little room for subtext. These people don't need therapy, they need to spend more time apart.
Brandman does show a deft touch with some individual moments in the film, especially in his work with actors. There are some charged scenes between Dushku and Jaime Ray Newman as a responsive waitress, and the palpable anxiety among the characters as the therapy session approaches is nicely staged. Dziena as the simultaneously yearning and vulnerable Heather gives "Sex and Breakfast's" best performance.
In the end, however, neither of the main relationships appears worth saving. The couples have little going for them other than their physical attractiveness so the stakes simply aren't high enough for the audience to care one way or another what happens to them.
"Sex and Breakfast." R for sexual content and language. Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd. (323) 848-3500.