Nude Tuesday, it must be said, gets bonus points for creativity. In telling the tale of a long-married couple who attempt to spice up their love life with a sojourn to a New Age retreat, director Armağan Ballantyne and writer/leading lady Jackie van Beek opted to make up an entirely new language, the cast members spewing out complete and utter gibberish for the full running time. The finished product was then handed over to English comedienne Julia Davis — best known to American audiences for her 2016 series Camping — who proceeded to translate and subtitle the film based solely on her viewing experience. In its own unique way, this calls to mind writer-director Steve Oedekerk’s cult classic Kung Pow: Enter the Fist or, going even further back, Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, in which foreign films were dubbed over with ridiculous dialogue that oftentimes clashed with the action on screen. Nude Tuesday is much more consistent in its novelty, as the majority of viewers unfamiliar with the film’s backstory will likely assume that what they are hearing is a foreign language of unknown origins, with the accompanying subtitles presumably an accurate English translation. But therein lies the rub: if the watcher is unaware of the conceptual hoodwink at play, then what is the point?
Indeed, the thought and creativity that went into making Nude Tuesday is directly inverse to the story itself, a thoroughly shopworn tale of hippy-dippy free love that wouldn’t pass muster as a segment on Laugh-In. Damon Herriman and van Beek star as Bruno and Laura, husband and wife and parents to two adorable young girls. The spark is gone from their marriage, as their latest wedding anniversary features not a night of passionate love-making, but Bruno choking the chicken as Laura suffers from a bout of thrush that has left her underwear “full of yogurt.” A gift from Bruno’s mom prompts the pair to visit a beautiful mountainside retreat where they hope to get their mojo back thanks to sexual guru Bjorg (Jemaine Clement), who preaches honesty and experimentation. What follows is as predictable as to be expected, with the uptight Laura finally attempting to cut loose while the jealousy-prone Bruno sulks on the sidelines until he drinks a tea with some hallucinogenic mushrooms, because there is no cliché or narrative convenience this film won’t embrace. It all leads up to the titular event, in which the entire cast doffs their clothes and learns a few life lessons about both themselves and each other.
A scenario like this literally writes itself, which is why it’s up to Davis’s translation to inject life into the proceedings. Unfortunately, the comedienne opts for a plethora of dick and fart jokes that are not only obvious, but serve to highlight the sheer banality of the on-screen material. Van Beek and Herriman exhibit a rather tender chemistry that manages an effective authenticity, and both manage to inject quite a bit of pathos into characters who are otherwise as broad as a barn, especially as the subtitles keep feeding us lines that at times almost betray the emotional texture of the performances. (More believable is that Clement would talk about his “cobra” nonstop, or would interrupt a handjob to take a phone call about the proper amount of gold thread needed in the making of his tunics.) Yet, for all the carnal activity on display, Nude Tuesday feels rather old-fashioned, the type of “naughty” comedy your grandmother might enjoy after a few Mimosas on a Sunday afternoon. It’s just too bad that it’s so damn boring, moving from one tired set piece to the next like it’s just ticking off boxes on a mundane checklist. Davis manages to squeeze out a few laughs here and there — the fact that Laura’s big corporate advertising presentation is on erotic adult diapers is rather amusing — but not nearly enough to recommend a watch, regardless of the intriguing behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Nude Tuesday will likely best be remembered as the film where Clement goes full-frontal for ten minutes and lets his bits flop around while running up a mountain, a sight that’s neither more or less impressive than everything else on display. At least he and everyone else look like they had fun dropping trou to make this, but it’s unfortunately at the expense of anyone who watches it.
Published as part of Tribeca Film Festival 2022 — Dispatch 2.