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‘Threesome’ (R)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 08, 1994

WHAT IS IT with those Baldwin brothers? And those "Twin Peaks" girls? Are they trying to tell us something? Last year Billy B. (the sleepy Baldwin) and Sherilyn Fenn (the trampy one) toyed with bisexuality in the execrable "Three of Hearts," which hyped up its lame love interest with a lesbian twist. Now, less than a year later, here's Stephen B. (the dopey Baldwin) and Lara Flynn Boyle (the dead one's best friend) in the even cheesier "Threesome," which dangles gay sex as a novelty lure.

A tedious, toilet-talking, try-sexual tease, "Threesome" is a '90s variation on those all-talk, no-action Rock Hudson-Doris Day movies. Even with all the chatter about homosexuality, prominent condom display and cretinous Spring Break mentality, it's every bit as prudish and sexophobic as those repressed '50s flicks.

Josh Charles plays Eddy, a junior transfer student -- he's so dreamy that when he registers for a dorm room at his new campus, the male and female desk clerks squabble over dibs on him. Charles takes an instant dislike to jock roommate Stuart (Baldwin), but he teaches the slob how to make his bed, and learns in turn how to drink, and soon they're inseparable.

When they discover that Alex (Boyle), the occupant of the next room, is a woman, the sexual ecology is disturbed. Soon all three have switched majors to Double Entendre 101. Boyle falls for Charles's mind (he reads Salinger and hangs an Edvard Munch "Scream" poster in his room). But after she makes several unsuccessful grabs, Charles reveals that he might be gay (he's quick to point out that he's never actually done it with a man, of course -- the audience could never handle that) and that he's interested in Baldwin.

And so, the odd geometry of "Threesome": She wants him, but he wants him, who wants her, but she won't look at him. After an hour of fake hilarity and gross collegiate pranks, "Threesome" gives up the goods -- an anti-climactic skinny-dip scene, and a soft-core sex sandwich, with Boyle in the middle, safely separating the boys.

"I just can't wait to get on with the next part of my life," sighs Boyle near the end of the movie, while waiting for her pregnancy test to change color.

I knew just how she felt.

"Threesome" is embarrassing for all involved, but Boyle gets the worst of it by far. She's the most exposed, displaying most of her freckles, and her shrill, Madonna-Lite performance reaches its humiliating low when she throws herself desperately at a reluctant Charles and writhes orgasmically atop a library table. "Golly," she gasps, "I love big words."

Aside from a Shempy haircut that makes Kevin Costner's "Bodyguard" 'do look sophisticated, Baldwin seems to be just being himself here -- throwing pizza, farting, wearing panties on his face. I guess they couldn't get Luke Perry for the sad-eyed, "sensitive" role filled by Charles.

Perversely, there are moments when it seems "Threesome" actually means to counter homophobia, and perhaps even give the topic some much needed air and light. But whatever potential good intentions writer/director Andrew Fleming might have had, what he comes up with is typical Hollywood product, undermined by stereotypes and ignorance.

This is one case in which the soundtrack easily outshines the movie. Songs such as U2's version of Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" and "What Does Sex Mean to Me" by Human Sexual Response are sexier, funnier and more perceptive about sexual matters than anything onscreen.

For the undecided, here's the tiebreaker on "Threesome": Howard Stern liked it.

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