I went to see "Wanderlust" yesterday, and with all the hype about it taking place in a "nudist colony" with real nudists, it's a real letdown in that respect. It's also a fairly average movie with a few laughs, and equally as many groans. A good movie to rent on DVD in a few months when it's released for home viewing.
The characters of George and Linda (played by Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston), stumble upon a B&B in Georgia run by a group of rag-tag hippie wannabees in a sort of idyllic commune setting. George is so taken by the drastic change in lifestyle compared to how the couple was used to living in stressful Manhattan, that he implores Linda to stay at "Elysium" for two weeks, convincing her by saying "there's no one way to live our lives."
Of course, there's trouble in paradise. People share everything equally, including sexual partners and automobiles. There are no doors, and even sitting on the porcelain throne will not keep people from entering and striking up a conversation. People slip hallucinogens into the community beverage during the "truth circle" where people vent their pent-up angers, then climb trees thinking they can actually fly. And there's also the matter of the greedy real estate developers who want to build a casino on the land unless the flower children can present a deed proving that they own the property.
This sets up the film's biggest disappointment, when Linda decides to take off her top in protest, and everyone follows her lead, but the camera cuts away. It's a major fail, not just because everyone seems to be so Pavlovian about seeing Jennifer Aniston's breasts, but the film at this point decides to play it safe instead of going for the moment. Even when the protest shows up on local TV news, the women's breasts are pixelated. At this point you realize that the film is a bit of a fraud.
This sharply contrasts other Judd Apatow productions, like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" where Jason Segal does a full frontal while sobbing as his girlfriend dumps him, and "Bridesmaids" where Melissa McCarthy takes a dump into a sink. These days if you want something to be funny, you can't hold back like "Wanderlust" does, promising lots of nudity and raunch, when all you really get is pretty routine Hollywood formula.
Even Joe Lo Trugilo as the commune's resident "nudist" wears a prosthetic penis, because apparently a large flopping member is funnier than a normal one when exposed in the headlights of George and Linda's car as they first enter the grounds. At most other times in the movie, the "nudist" wears a sort of jockstrap because of, you know, "pubes".
The only people with courage are a group of actual nudists who were on the set for basically one scene, who bare all in slow motion undulating glory as an SUV barrels down upon them. It's one of the few scenes which managed to get a real laugh from the audience, not because it was actually a funny situation, but because the bodies were of average, real people, and the laughter came at the expense of their flesh from people who are not used to the sight.
SPOILER ALERT here if you haven't seen the film. There are some good messages to take away from the film. In the end, George and Linda learn from their weeks at Elysium that there certainly is more than one way to live a life, to be open to new ideas, and let their proverbial hair down a bit. They learn to take these experiences back to Manhattan, where they redefine their lives based upon their new enlightened ideas.
This is something which can come from actual nudism, which allows people to shed their cares along with their clothes, making the return to everyday life just a little bit easier.
And the film does use real nudists, and some good things have been said in the press. Jennifer Aniston was quoted as saying "I got very comfortable with seeing nude people pretty much immediately. It was very bizarre. To know that these were actually nudists because here is a nudist colony in Clarkesville. To know how comfortable they are being nude."
USA Today picked up on the nudist angle here, quoting Randy Savage, a nudist extra in the film, who said, "It did not present any negative connotations regarding nudists at all ... I believe it will do very well, especially because it shows explicit nudity, including full frontal males (myself included). My son and daughter-in-law attended with us and gave the movie very high marks."
In real nudism, the "wander" is separated from the "lust". Overt sexual situations, free love and drugs are decidedly not part of the nudist or naturist experience. But it's important that the movie has sparked a conversation, and could provide a boost to clothing-optional and nude recreation. Like the fictional George and Linda, many people are also searching for ways to change their lives and seek relief from the tensions of stressful lives. What better way to do that than to strip off your clothes, go skinny-dipping, lay out in the sun, or socialize with good friends.
If you would like to learn about real nudism, visit The American Association for Nude Recreation's website (AANR).