Review: ‘Who’s Nailin’ Paylin?’
How do you review something pornographic? The stigma attached puts the reviewer in a delicate position. Comparing it to other pornographic works requires a knowledge of the genre that runs the risk of branding one a pervert, and even though Pauline Kael could have opened the door for others, her insistence to cover Deep Throat was famously denied by The New Yorker’s William Shawn. What would she have said? Perhaps the closest we’ll get is her review of Last Tango in Paris, but in that Bertolucci was aiming for something other than arousal (and few would find anything arousing about post-‘50s Brando).
The basis of a review should consider what the film hopes to accomplish and then address whether it does. So what does it hope to accomplish? Arousal, yeah, and in a far second, political satire.
Shot in two days, with a 13-page script, produced by porn magnate Larry Flynt, and released on election day 2008, the film chronicles the fictionalized sexual exploits of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin (referred to in the film as “Serra Paylin). The title role is played by performer Lisa Ann and features a collection of pornographic mainstays, including Evan Stone (Space Nuts, Pirates, Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge), Jada Fire (Manhunters), and Nina Hartley (Boogie Nights, Private Encounters), along with some relative newcomers Holly West and Sindee Jennings.
The plot centers around a potential scandal resulting from Paylin’s opening three-way with two Russian soldiers that threatens to derail her political career. Among Paylin’s defenders are Faux News reporter Bill Orally (Mike Horner), whose newscasts are interspersed between the sex scenes. Rounding out the erotic content is an affair carried on by Paylin’s husband (Alex Knight) and campaign intern Holly West; two flashbacks that touch on Paylin’s college days and encounter with a snowmobile salesman; and a climatic lesbian three-way between Paylin, Hillary Clinton, and Condoleeza Rice.
So, does it work? Ha, ha. Not as satire; political commentary is sacrificed for cheap “You betcha” jokes and silly-yet-obligatory puns on “drill, baby, drill.” Okay, that’s fine. No one expects a thematically deep exploration of issues, but then why make such a big show of basing it on real people and releasing it on election day? The tone is that of a simple character smash.
That’s too bad, because Who’s Nailin’ Paylin? would benefit a lot from a lighter heart. Evan Stone, whose wry little bits of humor were welcome in Space Nuts, is wasted, as is Nina Hartley, who could have injected an air of intelligence and wit into this humorless piece. Mike Horner’s parody of Bill O’Reilly is inspired, but his role unwisely serves the film’s scant plot.
Failing satire, is it arousing? Lisa Ann doesn’t seem to be enjoying her scenes and all too-often falls back into a series of mechanical and dull groans save for the final sequence, where she plays well off the still-attractive Nina Hartley and the sensual Jada Fire who, as always, adds a touch of sophistication and voluptuousness. Holly West brings a refreshing innocence to her scene, but seems more appealing with her clothes on. Sindee Jennings as the young Serra looks to be having a good time, but is miscast due to her small chest, which makes it hard to believe that she’ll mature into 38DD Ann. Evan Stone is simply picking up a paycheck.
Paylin? does admirably run the gamut of stock scenes, covering two-male-one-female, three-female, anal, older-man-young-girl, and male-female interactions but fails to make them look pleasurable for the participants. What we’re left with is something that fails on both accounts. Clearly this was made to capitalize on the folksy attractiveness of Sarah Palin, but Who’s Nailin’ Paylin’s crucial flaw is that it doesn’t like its protagonist. Orson Welles once said something to the effect that the essence of pornography is its vicariousness, and Who’s Nailin’ Paylin? does itself no favors by distancing the viewer from its characters.