In Love and Sex, in which she and Jon Favreau (Swingers, The Replacements) play a lovely comic duet, Janssen is playfully wry and touching. Better yet, this battle of the sexes, which marks a vibrant feature debut for writer-director Valerie Breiman, is scaled to human dimensions. As Kate Welles, a journalist who writes about love and sex for women's magazines, Janssen has no superpowers. Kate is as confused and commitment-phobic as the singles she writes about. All of which allows Janssen to show a flair for light comedy matched by her remarkable skill to cut deeper when Kate's emotions are bruised.
Breiman uses a clunky but effective framing device for her film. Kate's editor (Ann Magnuson) asks her to write an article on how a single woman views the dichotomy between love and sex in the modern dating world. Kate knows she can hand in the usual airy bull. Instead, she decides to probe her own dating history for material. That takes her from a schoolyard crush on a boy who smacks her when she kisses and tells, to a serious case on painter Adam Levy (Favreau) that leaves her even more vulnerable.tatuesque Kate doesn't exactly tower over short and stocky Adam, but they still make an odd couple. That's part of the attraction. They court and spark with the emphasis on spark. He claims she has "a horse face"; she insults his "abnormally large head." Breiman is uncanny at illustrating the pings of irritation that drive couples apart. Audiences may also get irritated during the cute early stages of the relationship, when instead of saying "I love you," Kate and Adam say, "Cheese sandwich."
Hang on. Breiman moves swiftly to the wedge that really drives Kate and Adam apart. Kate is experienced with men; Adam is her thirteenth. Adam has slept with barely a handful of women; he can't live with that. They break up and date others, mostly to make each other jealous. When Kate sees Adam with a younger babe, she plays dirty by dating Joey Santino (Josh Hopkins), an actor whose ninja flicks Adam worships. Adam doesn't know that Joey's impressions of his idol, Robert De Niro, drive Kate nuts.
Love and Sex maps the brutal trajectory of a relationship in ways that are part Annie Hall and part Gladiator. Date-night filmgoers will recognize the wounds. In Janssen they'll see a gifted actress with a stunning future.