From Wicked Pictures comes a tale of yearning and desire. Love for the First Time takes a pinch of inspiration from 2005’s sleeper hit, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, but takes it a step further by paralleling the stories of 44-year-old virgin Bob Smith (a never-better Randy Spears) and 23-year-old virgin May Singleton (Wicked contract player Carmen Hart). The film does a credible job of allowing serendipity to bring them inches apart, yet neither character lays eyes on the other until nearly an hour into the film’s runtime.
Prior to their first meeting, the film takes its time in establishing and examining its two main characters. Who is Bob? What makes him tick? We learn right off the bat that he’s a lonely, fastidious type—but when, after a meticulous toothbrushing tour de force, Bob amuses himself by making goofy faces in the bathroom mirror, we learn something incredible about this man. Alone, he’s self-assured, willing to goof off and have fun; outwardly, he projects an intense fear of letting others down. Good at his job, polite, kind-heared—he makes everyone happy but himself.
Wisely, writer Jennifer Allison dives into the complex psychology of this character by providing him a trio of friends/coworkers who exist as manifestations of Bob’s own id, ego, and superego. Chaz (Barrett Blade), representing the id, is a take-no-prisoners sex machine with an obsession with African-American culture and a knack for responding inappropriately to any set of circumstances. He’s a raging torrent of sex, violence, and unfiltered obscenities. Grady (Mr. Marcus), the ego, balances this with internalized secrets and a desperate fear of not fitting into his corner of the world—he has a secret masturbation addiction and an ability to sustain lasting relationships. Finally, Little Horn Dog (an uncredited diminutive player) acts as the superego, keeping these two forces in check while slyly undermining each friends’ attempts to “help” Bob.
This trichotomy is perhaps best exemplified in an early scene at a local bar (coincidentally, the same bar where May works, unbeknownst to Bob). Grady fantasizes about sex with an attractive waitress (Ryder Skye) because, despite his bravado, his own fears and prejudices prevent him from doing anything but having bright-eyed fantasies. Meanwhile, Chaz strikes out with the waitress but manages—quite easily—to sleep with another employee at the bar. It doesn’t matter to someone whose primary impulses are sex and violence. To paraphrase a character from Kevin Smith’s 1994 ode to smut, Clerks: “Find a warm hole, preferably moist. Thrust. Repeat.” Lastly, Little Horn Dog, at some point off-screen, has managed to woo and enter into a fulfilling relationship with the waitress Grady can’t work up the gumption to speak with.
Ms. Allison provides a similar—but infinitely more complex—Freudian make-up for May’s character. We first meet May while in the midst of a vivid sexual dream. May asserts control in her dream life that she lacks while awake, plunging herself into the arms of her Dream Lover (T.J. Cummings), riding him while making commands and assuring the fellow that he’s enjoying himself. Later in the dream sequence, he attempts to manually stimulate her genitals, which prompts an annoyed May to scowl and slap his hand away. Ignoring the id-intensive sexuality of the dream, what May really seems to dream about is this kind of control over herself and her own sexuality—“owning herself,” as her friend Allison tells her later in the film. The dream sequences have even been shot with a cheesecloth filter with a slight tinge of orange—a symbol of strength and impending change, no doubt the intent of veteran cinematographer François Clousot.
Allison (Lindsey Meadows) is the type of friend/boss/roommate who will take her best gal pal to a male-dominated strip club just so she can strip in front of her. Unlike Bob’s trio of Freudian symbolism, Allison herself is the full package. I have to wonder if, perhaps, the character name itself is a symbol of screenwriter Jennifer Allison’s own feelings on the sexual subjects she explores. Though she seems to believe the character of Allison’s actions go too far, Ms. Allison certainly disapproves of May’s timidity.
Though they haven’t yet met, Bob and May share many commonalities: both have near-fetishistic obsessions with proper dental hygiene, both make silly faces in their bathroom mirrors, both would prefer to stay home alone at night than troll clubs and bars for a one-night stand, both excel in their jobs despite adversity (Bob works in a video store loaded with pornography, about which he knows very little and repeatedly embarrasses himself; May, on the other hand, works as a bartender but finds herself at a loss when sleazy patrons make insulting comments). In fact, it seems their only differences are that May sleeps in the nude and Bob rides a geeky 10-speed everywhere.
Their “meet cute,” if you will, is an exercise in humiliation for both. Fate has brought both Bob and May to a strip club in the Valley. Bob’s friends get him trashed, then buy him a “private dance” in the VIP room. Anyone who has seen a film like this knows where it’s going. While he’s off receiving oral sex and a gentle tit-fuck from a stripper (Abbey Brooks), May finds herself both revolted and aroused by Allison’s assertive pole work. Bob, despite thinking unsexy thoughts to keep himself in the game, manages to lose control long before the stripper has finished, but it doesn’t matter: his reaching third base has thrilled him so much, Bob leaps onto the dance floor and begins a striptease of his own.
What happens next might strike some as a goof—for some reason, a man stripping prompts the male-dominated audience to cheer and applaud. What I got out of this was less a goof than director Michael Raven saying, “Though he has not fully sealed the deal, Bob has finally entered the Brotherhood of Man, and his fellow members—no pun intended—couldn’t be prouder.”
While performing his happy dance, Bob stumbles—and vomits all over the floor, right in front of May (who is smitten nonetheless).
Several weeks later, both Bob and May are dragged to a party where each persons’ friends force them to meet up. Each takes advice from their foolish friends; as a result, neither particularly likes the other until they relax and loosen up a bit. From then on, they’re inseparable. After six months, they finally make love, in perhaps the tenderest sex scene ever filmed in movie that self-identifies as hardcore pornography.
The feelings this awakens in each of them allows the film’s various storylines to properly resolve—both characters become more assertive now that they’ve found true love. Bob is afraid of neither sexuality nor the outside world. He’s willing to impart advice rather than have bad advice hammered into him—perhaps the film’s deepest psychological insight, having the newly assertive Bob urging change of the symbols of his own mind. May realizes she doesn’t need a stripper pole to feel empowered. Both are happy, and the power of Love for the First Time‘s statement about love cannot be denied.
This film’s true selling point are its exceptional story and well-crafted characters, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point out the job done by art director Jay Jorden. I don’t know if this was shot using real locations, soundstages, or a combination—and the fact that I can’t tell speaks volumes. Jorden populates each setting with unique dressings that speak volumes about the characters—Bob has a solitary La-Z-Boy rather than a sofa or loveseat, the video store is loaded with strange baubles and trinkets that give it a lived-in (or worked-in, if you will) feel, and perhaps most impressively, Grady fantasizes about copulating with the waitress in a massive, elaborate home that neither a video-store clerk nor a waitress could ever afford. It’s an interesting insight into Grady’s own aspirations, and the epilogue title stating that he became a successful adult film actor feels like a fitting end for the character.
I should mention that outtakes accompany the closing credits. While amusing, I would have preferred it if Raven had left them out. They cheapen the power of what came before (both literally and figuratively).
All in all, Love for the First Time might be the most impressive film to come from Wicked Pictures to date. I’d recommend it for its story and above-average production values.