Holly Slept Over, written and directed by Joshua Friedlander, is not an innocuous romantic comedy that you can simply forget minutes after the credits roll. Thanks to its oftentimes raunchy humor and engaging performances by the ensemble, Holly Slept Over is an acquired taste that appealed to my sensibilities.
Noel (Josh Lawson) and Audra (Britt Lower) are trying to have a baby, and their sex life, along with their relationship, is in a healthy state. Life for Pete (Ron Livingston) and Marnie (Erinn Hayes) is far from sunny, as their relationship has stagnated. Pete complains to best buddy Noel that sex with his wife is nonexistent, but in defense of Marnie maybe Pete simply is taking their relationship for granted.
Friedlander’s approach to this oft-told suburban tale is to stay away from the easy, obvious jokes and go for the raunch. Pete’s vivid description on how he sexually satiates himself while Marnie is dozing off came (for lack of a better word) from left field, and credit goes to the director for bringing some frank and uneasy sex talk into the proceedings. Pete’s actions, which many will consider sexual assault, will be thankfully addressed later in the tale.
The big “hook” in the story is Holly, and the obvious elephant in the room is Nathalie Emmanuel’s undeniable charisma. Holly and Audra were college roommates who had a fling back in the day, and thanks to Pete’s encouragement Noel tries to orchestrate a threesome while Holly spends the night.
Holly’s magnetism is the superficial selling point here, but Emmanuel brings a much needed level of humanity to the character. Armed with pot brownies that she brought (and made) as an ice breaker, Holly may initially come off as a party girl who never grew up, but looks can be deceiving. Instead of being the obligatory “object of attraction” in the tale, Holly comes off as a fully realized individual, proving that beauty (in this case) exists beyond the surface.
The film’s sexual humor is ramped down in dramatic fashion as Holly enters the equation, and Holly Slept Over ultimately turns into a relationship drama about the inherent value of commitment. Though Audra’s lust and romantic love for Holly may have not dissipated over the years, her love for Noel is unwavering. Guys are usually the last ones to the party in the emotional growth department, so Noel’s ultimate fixation is to bring a different variety erotic fulfillment into his life. Of course it will take these two women to bring Noel to his senses!
It was also great to see Pete’s sexual activities brought into light during the movie’s third act, and though his antics are played for comedy, it was great to see him finally pay the piper with his highly selfish and boorish behavior.
Shout out goes to Friedlander for having Holly dancing to Big Head Todd & The Monster’s classic tune “Bittersweet” during a memorable evening. It’s a few seconds of nostalgia that’s mixed into the sexual atmosphere of Holly Slept Over, but this sentiment did not go unnoticed.
A suburban sex comedy that actually surprised me with its substance (and laughs), Holly Slept Over may be a bit more than you bargained for, and that’s a good thing.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
***Holly Slept Over is now out on Digital and Redbox.