Sebastian Gutierrez seems to have the soul of a TV producer, if his latest film Elektra Luxx - and his previous film, Women in Trouble - are any indication.
Elektra Luxx, the newest installment, continues the stories started in Women two years ago. Most of the characters overlap, though there are a couple of new ones. And the movies have a certain serial quality that borders on soap opera.
Now, if only the writing were stronger. Gutierrez has an interesting sense of structure and a penchant for creating weirdly quirky storylines, in which women take the fore. But the whole thing feels too sketchy, too tossed-off, to hang together as a movie. But as a series - on HBO, Starz, Showtime or even FX - this material might actually work, because so much weight wouldn't be placed on any individual episode.
But in a movie, even one for which you know there probably will be a sequel, there's a sense of almost desperate plotting. It's as though Gutierrez is trying to cram it all into this outing because who knows if he'll get a chance to make the next one.
As in Women in Trouble, this film stars Carla Gugino, as a recently retired porn star named Elektra Luxx. And, as in the previous film, he actually has her get stuck in an elevator - though that's a minor plot device here, not as central as it was to the other film.
Elektra is pregnant by her dead rock star boyfriend, Nick Chapel, who succumbed to heart failure (or perhaps a drug overdose) while exercising his membership in the mile-high club with a stewardess named Cora (Marley Shelton). Now Elektra hopes to live out her existence teaching (she's leading a community-college class: "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star") and being a mom.
Then Cora shows up on Elektra's doorstep to offer a deal: She has absconded with a folder of handwritten songs that Nick had composed but not recorded prior to his death - all of them about Elektra. The rest of the band is hot on her trail; they want the songs to record for what would undoubtedly be a best-selling posthumous release.
But she's willing to hand them over to Elektra in exchange for a favor: Elektra must seduce the stewardess's fiancé, Benjamin (Justin Kirk). That will assuage Cora's guilt over getting it on with the dead rock star.
Other characters also show up, including a sex-film blogger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who worships Elektra, and a pair of other porn actresses (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Adrianne Palicki), who are chasing wealthy men on vacation.
Gutierrez plays criss-cross with these plot lines but can't make them resonate or, worse, mine them for laughs. His ideas of plotting are witty but his follow-through rarely is. The dialogue is generally arch without being genuinely funny. Even having Gugino play twins (one of whom is in prison), while an interesting idea, is only that: interesting.
These are characters who seem to be begging for regular exposure and ongoing stories, a la Desperate Housewives (or, at least, early Desperate Housewives - how is that show still on the air?).
But as a stand-alone movie, Elektra Luxx seems distinctly fragmentary. Gutierrez obviously has bigger ideas he wants to explore, but movies like this are simply not the medium.