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'Whipped': Scam & Scum

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September, 1 2000


    'Whipped' Amanda Peet and Jonathan Abrahams star in "Whipped."
(Destination Films)
A trio of vile sexual egotists gets theirs in "Whipped," a blabby castration fantasy powered by the equally contemptible, wholly unfounded vengeance of a woman who hasn't been wronged. For that matter, the hardhearted seductress (Amanda Peet) doesn't even know the fools when she decides to cut them down to size.

First-time filmmaker Peter M. Cohen's wrongheaded notion: When it comes to sexual pursuits, women on the make are as callous as the film's cynical "scammers." (That's the current slang for shameless womanizer.) Of course, Cohen, who based the movie on his own experience, is clueless when it comes to what motivates women. His insights are as worthless as a lecher's promise and the issues he raises as stale as a couch crumb.

Although it is derivative of any number of memorable guy movies – "Swingers," "Trainspotting," "Diner" and "In the Company of Men" among them – "Whipped" is puerile bluster. Every Sunday, three swingers and an envious married buddy meet at a diner to brag about the week's conquests over breakfast. Their raunchy post-mortems are funny at first, but the wild brunch soon becomes obvious and tiresome.

These characters, all twentysomething stereotypes, are as insubstantial as one-ply toilet paper and exist only to be victims of Cohen's bogus version of female empowerment. Brad (Peet's real-life boyfriend, Brian Van Holt) is a Banana Republican, a well-dressed Wall Streeter whose best line is "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" It's not the "Tao of Steve," but he's a looker, so it works every time.

Zeke (Zorie Barber), a pretentious neo-beatnik, hangs out in an East Village coffee shop writing his unproduced screenplays. His latest conquests, a pair of slinky bohemian types, rocked his world, then stole his TV the next morning. Now he must content himself with watching the bread burn in his toaster. Then there's the delicate dork Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams), a chronic masturbator – a practice belabored to grotesque excess.

Eric (Judah Domke), the married one, is the best drawn and most amusing of the characters. Before his marriage, Eric would group-scam with his pals. When they spotted a likely quartet, Eric's job was to woo the least attractive of the four, "to jump on the grenade." Yet he still longs for the old days, reliving them vicariously at the weekly bull sessions.

Then the irresistible Mia (Peet) comes along and the self-aggrandizing sessions come to an end. Smart, stunning and sexually uninhibited, Mia turns out to be the perfect woman for Brad, Zeke and Jonathan. She's interested in Brad's investments, Zeke's scribblings and Jonathan's collection of hand creams.

Upon discovering that they have all fallen for the same girl, the three confront Mia and beg her to pick a favorite. Mia, however, continues to date all three and destroy their friendship – and she still hasn't sharpened her scissors. "She's got you all whipped," sneers Eric.

Mia has ulterior motives. Apparently, messing with scammers is a hobby of hers, though it hardly provides physical pleasure, mutual intimacy or self-fulfillment. She may be formidable, but she's no better than the cuckolded Casanovas. The movie never explains why she would lavish so much time and sexual attention on such inept suitors. If you want to see a real femme fatale, check out Linda Fiorentino in "The Last Seduction." When it comes to female empowerment, the teens of "American Pie" are way ahead of man-obsessed Mia.

Peet plays the pivotal role, but the men spend at least twice as much time on screen as she does, jawing with each other or admiring themselves in their mirrors. Domke, as the overweight married one, manages to be the most likable of the pathetic guysome. Obviously that's not saying much, but then the filmmaker didn't have much to say.

While it's never clear, Cohen seems to think he's spoofing male narcissism. Instead, he's trashing Eve. In the end, it all goes back to the Garden of Eden. They're never going to forgive us for listening to the snake.

WHIPPED (R, 82 minutes) – Contains extreme profanity, vulgarity and graphic sexual situations.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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