Elektra Luxx (**½)

A strange little film with a good heart, Elektra Luxx is the sequel to the equally flawed Women in Trouble.  Focusing on a character from the latter film, the former film gets its title from the namesake character, a retired porn star.  The movie is an ensemble character piece (with some nice little performances to boot), in the vein of Robert Altman’s flicks, just with a dirty mind and a less talented filmmaker at the helm.  If you crossed Nashville with soft-core pornography but took out most of the overt sex, you’d have something similar to this film.  I didn’t dislike it, but it was far too flawed to give a real recommendation to.  It’s a sex comedy that thinks it’s a lot more than it is, and writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez fails to invest us in the story enough to make it really matter.

There’s no real plot to speak of here, just a whole bunch of characters floating around, making this seem almost like a group of short films thinly connected (essentially, it’s just following most of the characters from the first film).  The only character that isn’t really shortchanged is the aforementioned Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino), who’s now retired from the industry and pregnant.  She teaches a community college sex course to housewives by day, and falls into any number of porn inspired adventures by night. 

Her story runs her into a woman (Marley Shelton) who has the song lyrics to Elektra’s dead rock star ex (Josh Brolin in the last movie) and the private dick (Timothy Olyphant) looking to get them back, as well as the Virgin Mary…yes, that one (and played by Julianne Moore).  The other subplots really are pointless (they seem to just be padding the running time, as though Gutierrez wanted the story to be solely about Luxx but couldn’t make the film work), though the one involving porn starlets on vacation (played by Adrianne Palicki and Emmanuelle Chriqui) is the most amusing thing in the film.  There’s also Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a porn blogger who works as a sort of Greek Chorus.  The movie is kind of pointless, and ends on a cliff-hanger, but it’s not a chore to sit through, at least.

Gugino is very good as a non-stereotypical porn actress.  She’s witty and intelligent, more of a literary character than one from smut.  Gugino is able to play the role both straight and for laughs, though the film doesn’t really support her as it should.  Her performance is the best thing in the film and better than it deserves.  Gordon-Levitt is also good, but his Spanish accent is annoyingly inconsistent.  The rest of the cast barely registers, though Palicki and Chriqui show nice comic chops.  Shelton, Olyphant, and Moore are mostly just giving cameos, alongside other performers like Malin Ackerman, Justin Kirk, Lucy Punch, Amy Rosoff, and Kathleen Quinlan.

No one is bad, but no one else besides Gugino is really given any chance or time to shine (and she herself barely is).

Writer/director Gutierrez shoots the entire thing to look like 70’s porn, which is more effective in some scenes than others.  His writing style is very reminiscent of people like Diablo Cody and Kevin Smith, but his talent level is nowhere near them.  He’s not untalented, but he’s scatter-shot and unable to focus his film at all.  There are amusing diversions, but he doesn’t yet know how to pace a film for maximum effectiveness.  He has a lot of affection for his characters, and to a degree that rubs off on you, but not enough to really make the flick a worthwhile endeavor.

Overall, Elektra Luxx is an interesting enough failure that I want to see the next installment in the now franchise, but it really needs to be more focused to be successful at all.  Gugino is the highlight, but other than that, this is a mildly sexy, mildly amusing, mildly annoying movie.  The problem here is…it’s too mild in all regards.  If you’re curious what a mildly crummy version of Nashville would be like (or a really crummy version of Boogie Nights) than this might be for you, but I’d say to avoid it unless you loved the first movie.

Maybe the next film will redeem the series, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.