By William Wolf

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What happens when two sexually loyal people in a relationship headed toward marriage experiment with plunging into sex with other partners in a comparison meant to cement their own bond and be sure they will live happily ever after? You can bet there will be unexpected fallout.

In “Permission,” written and directed by Brian Crano, the idea is not having couples commit to open relationships as a way of life. The key here is experimentation with a goal of mutual affirmation that they hope will emerge from their bedroom frolics. It is basically a nutty idea, but the film holds one’s interest because of the excellent cast.

Rebecca Hall is fascinating as Anna, who is studying music and at the age of thirty has been going steady with Will, given an excellent performance by Dan Stevens, who is finally getting up the courage to ask Anna to marry him. At her birthday dinner, Will’s partner in the furniture-making business, Reece, played intensely by Morgan Spector, mischievously brings up the idea of having sex with others to find out how proficient sex really is for Anna and Will. Reece has a homosexual partner, Anna’s brother Hale, played with sensitivity by David Joseph Craig. (More about that relationship later.)

The film covers the awkward stretch when Anna and Will decide to go ahead and be truthful about what follows. Anna starts an increasingly compelling fling with a musician, Dane (François Arnaud), and Will is seduced by sexy, free-wheeling Lydia, hotly played by Gina Gershon, who gets Will high on drugs and unleashes a lurking fantasy he has thought about.

Dane is quite the victim, as he is really being used by Anna. There is a rather unbelievable scene when he takes her into the empty BAM Opera House in Brooklyn and gets her on stage to play a waiting piano.

To find out how the Anna-Will relationship ends you’ll have to see the film. (No spoiler here.) The subplot of the relationship between Reece and Hale thickens when Hale, having made a platonic friendship with Glenn (Jason Sudeikis), a dad who sits in the park with his baby son, decides he wants to adopt a child, an idea that’s anathema to Reece.

Although “Permission” is overwrought, the sexual scenes are quite vivid, and the acting makes the characters a lot more believable than the screenplay. I would like to eavesdrop on some of the discussion that couples may have after seeing this movie. A GDE release. Reviewed February 9, 2018.


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