Like he did with "Faithless" earlier this year, Paul Thomas has made an excellent porn movie that doesn't skimp on the love or the anger in this new-world (and New Testament!) version of "Deep Throat."
Throat: A Cautionary Tale
Director: Paul Thomas
Cast: Sasha Grey, Penny Flame, Tom Byron, Evan Stone, Aliana Love, Trent Tesoro, Herschel Savage, Lee Stone
"I didn't mean for this to happen," intones Julie (Sasha Grey), commenting on her (naked, of course - are you kidding?) corpse a la "Sunset Boulevard" via its Porn Valley counterpart, Sherman Way. "Things just got out of hand."
Out of hand and into throat, you mean. Thus begins "Throat: A Cautionary Tale," Vivid's biggest movie this year, an ambitious project that has already had a six-episode paid infomercial playing on Showtime to support it.
Veteran porn scribe Raven Touchstone's script is the best this year, convincingly effecting a B story of the cops (Tom Byron and train wreck Penny Flame) tracking down Julie's killer as well as presenting several possible culprits. And, in a movie that is dark but not too dark for its own good, Touchstone gives a ditzy stripper the line "I heard he fucked an elephant and made it scream."
That Grey - and not a Vivid contract girl - leads the cast is not surprising, considering director Paul ("PT") Thomas' other big movie this year, "," starring Miss America-turned-soap opera actress-turned-full-throated cougar harridan Kelli McCarty.
"Throat" is also a great example of a post-modern porn movie. At two hours it is a throwback to features of yore, but it also takes as its source material "Deep Throat," porn's most famous film and a cultural phenomenon that even found its way into the Watergate scandal.
"What's a 'Deep Throat'?" asks Julie, who lets us know that her "pussy was her enemy" and her "clit like a wart."
Julie is being schooled by Lane (Aliana Love), a fellow stripper at the peep show at which Julie has been forced to work to pay for college. The movie takes its time breaking down Julie's stripperesque misanthropy ("I was sickened by their pathetic neediness," she says. (You and me both, sister!) "But I felt sorry for them, too. If they had someone to love them, they wouldn't be here") and provides a few indulgences not often thrown to porn consumers: a slow burn.
Julie, you see, cannot experience pleasure in her vagina. At first we think it's just because her loser trust-fund boyfriend Eddie (Trent Tesoro) only cares about himself. This is partly true. But the real reason is that Julie's functioning clitoris is in her throat. Once Lane shows Julie how to "deep throat" a dildo (if the characters Lane and Julie know about Linda Lovelace and the origin of that term, they never let on), Julie is hooked on the feeling of finally, finally getting the stimulation she needs.
But even as Eddie becomes the lucky beneficiary of Julie's newfound throat-acumen, he becomes enraged by the thought of how she might have developed it. He gets over it and, like Evan Stone's mercenary gentlemen's club manager later in the movie, pimps her out for cash.
Where "Throat" differs from other porn versions of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams story is the time it takes to set up Julie's betrayals. Before these guys reveal themselves for the sleazebags they are, Julie trusts them.
Similarly does Joe (Tom Byron) trust his partner Byrd (Penny Flame). As you can imagine, Byrd gets drawn in to the sex club scene while investigating the death of Julie, but Byrd is given even more of a past: she's a pill popper and drunk! Not only that, she trades on her shame. In another of "Throat"'s memorable lines she says, "Punish me. I deserve it. I'm no good. Punish me."
The movie gives the audience so much credit throughout that its occasional porny missteps - at the beginning and end - are jarring. Do we really need to see a textbook overlay of the female reproductive system above Grey's pleasing flesh-and-blood parts? Isn't this explained elsewhere? What kind of coroner leaves a patient lying naked and uncovered on a gurney after declaring that her dead (and hot!) little throat "will make history"? Do we need to see what we are already pretty sure is her famous vagina labeled "Vagina"? Perhaps so. Like the coroner is the first to find - long after the detectives are through with her - the condom sticking half out of that "Vagina," maybe the filmmakers believe the audience is likely to miss something.
Similarly, for someone who has clearly stated that she only gets off with her throat, Julie sure spends a lot of time post-epiphany getting it everywhere else. (I'm only complaining about this as a writer, you understand.)
The performances of Grey and Flame are right on the money. The sex is integral to both their stories, and everything their characters say within that context makes sense, and is delivered more convincingly than anything else. We cannot help infer the plight of the millennial 21-year-old porn star Sasha Grey in Julie's "I'm a person!" speech, and we are all too familiar with the upside of bad behavior: sometimes Penny Flame just wants to be punished.
But the deftest touch in "Throat: A Cautionary Tale" comes from Herschel Savage, who plays a Hasid with a crush. He delivers a line from the New Testament (go figure) that is as appropriate to porn as, I don't know, using the word "Children" (as in "") wasn't.
But you owe it to yourself to see the movie. Even if you are no good and need to be punished.