I’ve been contemplating the role of the surrogate partner in the film The Sessions for weeks. Helen Hunt gives a compelling performance as a therapist that goes all the way with her clients out of compassion, a desire to heal, and a self-declared love of sex. Poet Mark O’Brien, paralyzed after contracting polio as a child, seeks a sex surrogate to make his dream of exploring his latent sexuality a reality. The film is based on autobiographical writings by O’Brien. The Sessions is tastefully filmed, poignant, and guaranteed to make you giggle. I would watch it again in a heartbeat.
This spring I devoured all things Jack Kerouac. It started with the movie On the Road. A film filled with strange moments of seemingly unlikely erotic encounters, drug use, and wild adventures. Or to sum it up nicely: sex, drugs, and jazz. Filmed with the eye of a photographer, On the Road is aesthetically striking. Director Walter Salles did a brilliant job of adapting Kerouac’s book to film. No small undertaking. The film brings believability and humanity to the characters that the book lacks. Actor Sam Riley’s gentle portrayal of Sal Paradise makes him endearing in a way that Kerouac’s writing never accomplishes. (I could fall in love with Sal. An open-minded, attractive French-Canadian writer? Umm... Yes!) Maybe it’s because the film doesn’t stay true to the book that it’s so successful. A point I’m sure hard-core Kerouac fans will find frustrating.
As for the other semi-fictional books that I’ve read by Kerouac (are any of his books true fiction?), my favourites are Big Sur and The Dharma Bums. The Subterraneans leaves one with much to ponder on the nature of men. The dreadful way protagonist Leo Percepied treats his romantic partner Mardou Fox is exasperating! I do appreciate Kerouac’s honesty in his writing. He leaves nothing out. You see how he ticks, which can be wildly unattractive, yet enthralling. Was Kerouac candid in his writing? Or was he merely taking his readers on a long, fantastic ride? Regrettably, we may never know for certain. Alcoholism killed Kerouac prematurely at the age of 47.
“Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’”