“If women were to stop falling in love, it would mean the end of the human race!” cries one of the middle-aged, white male publishers.

“Not at all,” Barbara responds, “I said women should refrain from love…not sex.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?” responds the man. “I mean—for women!”

Of course, it’s not. In step with the sexual revolution, Barbara asserts that women can enjoy sex “à la carte” the way men do.

Like its predecessors, Down with Love never has a sex scene, but is wholly preoccupied with sex. The film uses the classic generic stylings of the sex comedy to prove that women and men are equals in horniness, and consistently centers women’s pleasure. One of the most effective techniques is the genre’s signature split-screen, famously used in Pillow Talk to suggest that the leads are taking a bath together. In Down with Love’s updated take, the split-screen is employed in an elaborate telephone call; Barbara preens and stretches after sunbathing while Catcher exercises post-shower and invites her over for dinner. As he bends over and towels off his wet hair, his head disappears, seemingly between Barbara’s legs; at the exact same time, Barbara says, “No man has ever done this for me before! How thoughtful!” Moments later, Catcher does push-ups, seemingly on top of Barbara’s reclined body. “It’s my pleasure,” he says, referring to hosting dinner, “So you’d like to come?” “Oh yes!” Barbara says, the moment accented by Zellweger’s breathy tone. “Yes, yes!”

In place of the delicate innuendos that Day and Hudson indulge in, Down with Love shoots out a barrage of double-entendres that come as close to explicit as possible. So close, in fact, that the lack of clear discussion about sex becomes the ever-oppressive elephant in the room. The gymnastics required to constantly volley around the subject at hand draw much more attention to sex than a clear acknowledgement of it ever would. In this way, Down with Love pokes fun at its 1960s counterparts’ chasteness by making sex absolutely omnipresent. It’s evident in an extended discussion about “[mens’] hose” (socks), a sequence where Catcher makes a series of veiled nods to his many stewardess girlfriends, and in references to the marketing department ‘riding the tail’ of a queer-coded designer. The sheer volume of double-entendres primes the audience to expect sex, constantly teasing and setting them up for failure. In one scene, near the climax of Barbara’s romance with Zip (Catcher’s alter ego), the camera suggestively pans across a room where Catcher and Barbara have taken off their shoes. Offscreen, Barbara gasps with pleasure.

“Tell me when it’s good for you,” Catcher (as Zip) says. “Put your hand on it and guide me until I got it in the right spot.”

“Almost,” breathes Barbara. “Almost! Oh, Zip! I’ve done this a lot before, of course, but never with such a powerful instrument!” She gasps sharply: “That’s it!”

It’s then that the pan completes. Barbara and Catcher are simply looking through a telescope together. The audience has been played once again.

In addition to using these clever filmmaking tricks, Down with Love’s script also builds an effective shorthand to suggest sexual arousal: chocolate. Barbara explains early on that, while working through the steps in her book, women should eat chocolate to curb their sexual cravings. From then on, any character eating chocolate becomes highly suggestive. After their date—the one with the telescope—Barbara and Catcher share a kiss, the first in their falsely chaste relationship. They pull apart awkwardly, their hips far from each other to prevent their physical moment progressing any further. Barbara, flustered, takes the entire chocolate soufflé as she leaves. Catcher, once alone, hobbles to the porch and dumps a bucket of ice on his head.



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