You wouldn’t think that sex addiction and testicular cancer are topics that could be mined for any but the cheapest of laughs. And Hooking Up would prove you right. Nico Raineau’s would-be romantic comedy starring Brittany Snow and Sam Richardson actually manages to defy low expectations with its aggressive and unfunny raunchiness. Despite the best efforts of the talented lead performers and an overqualified supporting cast, this is a movie for which you should practice social distancing.
In the opening scene, we see Darla (Snow) getting it on with a man in a school classroom and abruptly ending the encounter after she’s been satisfied. The joke turns out to be that he’s the leader of her sexual addiction support group, and they’ve been at it right before the meeting begins. This pretty much sets the tone for the all-too predictable humor that ensues over the next 100 minutes or so.
The meeting is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Bailey (Sam Richardson), who wanders in distraught over having been left by his childhood sweetheart fiancée (Anna Akana) after losing one of his testicles to the disease. The joke, again all too obvious, is that he’s wandered into the wrong room, thinking it was a cancer survivor support group. If you believe bad movies and television, you’d imagine that this sort of thing happens all the time.
It’s soon revealed that Darla, who’s relentlessly obnoxious to virtually everyone, is, you guessed it, a sex columnist at a glossy magazine. After getting fired by her fed-up editor (Jordana Brewster) for having sex at the office with an intern, Darla hatches a plan to travel around the country revisiting every location of her past sexual exploits and reenact them for a blog called “Sex Drive.” Needing a partner, she convinces Bailey, who’s just been diagnosed with a recurrence of his cancer that will necessitate losing his other testicle. Besides the prospect of unlimited sex, he has another motivation, which is to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend and use Bailey to make her jealous enough to want to come back to him.
Hilarity does not ensue, as demonstrated by the couple’s first, awkward tryst in an airport bathroom in which the performers strain for laughs with their energetic physical contortions.
Similarly unamusing encounters follow, but those are at least preferable to when the film unsuccessfully attempts to turn serious. The most egregious example occurs when Bailey tearfully recounts an episode in which her sexual encounter with a married man was interrupted by the arrival of his wife, with ultimately tragic results. Snow gives it her all in her delivery of the anguished monologue, but the tonal shift is so jarring that the movie never recovers.
Equally uninvolving are the subplots concerning Bailey’s strained relationship with his parents (Vivica A. Fox, Bryan Pitts) and Darla’s reunion with her troubled mother (Amy Pietz, making a strong impression in a brief appearance), which demonstrates that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.
Snow, whose numerous credits include the Pitch Perfect films, and Richardson, a perennial scene-stealer on Veep, each have formidable comic chops. But there’s only so much they can do to wrest laughs from the awful screenplay co-written by director Raineau and Lauren Schacher, which manages to be equally offensive to both genders.
Production companies: Highland Myst, Yale Productions, Film Mode Entertainment, Sprockefeller Pictures, BondIt Media Capital, Buffalo 8
Distributor: Saban Films
Cast: Brittany Snow, Sam Richardson, Anna Akana, Amy Pietz, Jordana Brewster, Vivica A. Fox, Shaun J. Brown, Alexis G. Zall
Director: Nico Raineau
Screenwriters: Nico Raineau, Lauren Schacher
Producers: Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Brittany Snow, Jon Keeyes
Executive producers: Sabine Stener, James Sears Bryant, Lauren Schacher, Nico Raineau, John Sacchi, Michael J. Rothstein, Clay Epstein, Mathilde Epstein, Shaun Sanghani, Gigi Lacks, Martin Sprock, Ryan R. Johnson, Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, Jonathan Sheldon, William V. Bromiley, Shanan Becker, Jonathan Saba, Ness Saban
Director of photography: Jeff Bierman
Production designer: Brittany Ingram
Editor: Waldemar Centeno
Composer: Gregory Townley
Costume designer: Mirin Soliz
Casting: Mary Vernieu
Rated R, 104 minutes