“X”: Movie Review

The titular “X” of Scott J. Ramsey’s glossy, highly stylized, and indisputably intriguing drama/thriller is a young woman named Christian, played by Hope Raymond.  Christian lives in a cliff-side mansion with her housekeeper Alice (Miyoko Sakatani) and her benefactress/tenuous mother figure Lynda Rue (Valerie Façhman), a legendary but retired chanteuse who is ostensibly in the beginning stages of senility.  As the chair of Lynda’s charitable foundation, Christian has a rather unorthodox way of raising money. She throws invitation-only, masked dinner soirees at her opulent home for her fellow Bay Area youthquakers, where a password is required for entry and no real names are used.  At midnight, the events become pansexual play parties where “No fantasy is too obscene”.  It’s something of a hipster version of the “scandalous” orgy scene in 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut, but with more attractive players and better entertainment. As the great and powerful Wizard in this adults-only Oz, Christian is “The King”… and yes, kids, this king has a consort.  “The Queen” is Danny (Brian Smick), a cute guy who is Christian’s business partner.  The King and Queen share a close but wary friendship of sorts.  Although “X”/Christian/The King carefully seeks out (Some may say “stalks“…) and screens her party guests, she rarely participates in the after-hours activities, preferring to engage in her own outré fetish when by herself.  To echo Christian’s own words, “You’re only really who you are when you think no one is watching.” More about that later…

The drama in “X” starts when The King and Queen’s well-constructed monarchy is disrupted by a party crasher: a stunning webcam model and neophyte burlesque performer named Stella, played by Eliza Boivin. The audience quickly learns that Christian and Stella knew each other in high school.  Finalizing the cast of main characters is Jordan (Zachary Cowan), a former high school jock who piqued Christian’s nascent sexual feelings as a teenager.  Ironically, Jordan is now dating Stella.  After attending one of “X”‘s underground balls, both Stella and Jordan find themselves becoming knaves in Christian and Danny’s game of… uhm, “royal flush”..  However, the foursome do not become one big happy polyamorous family.  Quite the opposite, in fact…

Any movie that kicks off at a naughty masquerade ball with “effervescent porcelain cocks” as table decor is inviting enough… but “X” continues to keep its promise to titillate and shock the audience throughout the entire film.  There are many plot twists and turns, including but not limited to revealed secrets, mistaken identities, manipulation, betrayal, and even sexual assault.  Christian’s forbidden fetish is ultimately exposed in a big way, and the combination of sex, lies, and SD cards threaten to topple this kinky king’s “château de cartes”.

The slick visual aspects of “X” match the provocative subject matter: Director Scott J. Ramsey incorporates some creative cinematographic touches such as split screen and artistic color/lighting effects into several scenes, and it works very well.  The screenplay (by Ramsey and Hanna Katherine Jost) also features some keen observations on the culture of Bay Area twenty-/early 30-somethings in the 2020’s, where image is King, social media is Queen, and multiple aliases are just part of the poker game of modern life.  As our central character Christian states about her peers: “They want to be the cool kids but don’t want to be eager to be cool; They’re obsessed with image but not committed enough to really create convincing characters.”  The acting is quite good, especially the body- and soul-baring performances of Raymond as Christian/”X”/The King and Boivin as Stella.  As Lynda Rue, Valerie Façhman gets an utterly delightful scene-stealing moment, even though it requires some suspension of disbelief for the audience to accept that her character is even a little bit senile…

“X” is a cinematic event well worth attending.  I may have never gotten my red enveloped invitation in the mail, but I’m glad I crashed this “devil’s ball”…

“X” will be available on Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 to buy or rent on all major digital platforms including Amazon, Google Play and VUDU. The film can also be pre-ordered on iTunes/Apple TV here.  The film will be released alongside At the Devil’s Ball, an 11 track “electro-cabaret” album featuring music from the movie by goth pop duo The Major Arcana, available to stream and download on music platforms everywhere on Tuesday, February 16, 2021.

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