Zack and Miri Make a PornoWritten and directed by Kevin SmithStarring Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson and Traci LordsRated R7.5
Goes well with: Clerks, The Full Monty, Inserts
Kevin Smith had tangled with the Motion Picture Association of America before his latest movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. “But this time,” he tells CityBeat, “I felt like they might have us, because they actually have visuals to point to.”
Yep. Zack and Miri earned the dreaded NC-17, but Smith went through the appeals process and won his R rating. “I was a happy camper,” he says. “Everything I wanted in the movie is in the movie. I didn't have to cut anything.” One of those things is a scene about what happens when an anal-sex scene ends very suddenly and very badly.
Yes, it's that kind of Kevin Smith movie. But here's the thing: Even though it's set in the world of amateur porn, Zack and Miri is Smith's most mature film to date. His direction is more relaxed and assured than it's ever been, and the movie, which stars Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as roommates who enlist their friends to make a porno to stave off eviction, is money-shot funny, has an inspired gay-porn-star cameo from Justin “I'm a Mac” Long and is much sweeter than you'd expect.
“All the elements came together in a really perfect way,” says Smith, who had been mulling over the movie for more than a decade. “I wanted to explore my favorite topic, the difference between fucking and making love—how two people can perform the sex act in a very disconnected way, and for another two people it changes everything. It seemed like homemade porn or DIY porn was the perfect way to get that story out there.”
Why did Smith want to explore the seamy side of a seamy industry? Let's just say he thinks there are some very human commonalities there.
“Sex and pooping are the only two things we absolutely share in common with other people on this planet,” he says. “Political influences, spiritual influences, religions may all be different. But we all fuck, and we all shit, and that, to me, is common ground. That's game for subject matter, because it's universal and, oddly enough, two things people rarely like to talk about with strangers or even friends. I'm kind of the opposite.”
And though he's had the idea for a decade, Smith thinks Zack and Miri would have been an even tougher sell in the previous millennium. Thanks to the Internet, America's relationship with porn has become more, um, up close and personal. “It's far more mainstream now,” says Smith. “In '96, if you wanted to watch adult films, you had to go to a video store and go into that little booth and then deal with the clerk when you rented it. Now you just open your laptop. That puts porn firmly in every household in America. There's no avoiding it, to some degree.”
That's one reason he hired porn starlet Katie Morgan for a key role and Traci Lords, once an underage porn legend, for another. Rogen told him about the positive experiences they'd had hiring adult-film actresses for Knocked Up and Superbad. “He said, ‘Chances are you cannot ask any of these actresses in the porn biz to do something in your movie that isn't going to seem a million times easier to do than what they do in their day job.' He had a point.”
So, yes, there's an orgy of nudity, sex and bodily functions, but the reason Zack and Miri works is that the chemistry between Rogen and Banks is great. There's never any doubt they'll go from BFF to BFFF after they have sex on camera, but by the time it happens, we're pulling for them to, well, have sex off-camera. Because Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a love story about Zack and Miri.
“Porn is the element to kick their gears in,” Smith says. “For a movie that has Porno in the title, it has surprisingly little to do with porn. That being said, we delivered on that title. You're not going to go to this and think it's a bait-and-switch. Zack and Miri definitely make a porno.”