Thai Food and Porn Stars: A Tasty Combination

Samuel Goldwyn Films
Gugino explains the birds and the bees.
The Dinner: Massaman Beef Curry at Tup Tim Thai (18 W. Mercer St.).

The Movie: Elektra Luxx at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

The Screenplate: When was the last time you rented a dirty movie? (Or downloaded it or streamed it or whatever?) And what was the star of that skin flick doing with her life on that very same evening, thousands of miles away, presumably in the San Fernando Valley? It's a question lightheartedly addressed by writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez in Elektra Luxx, the second of three planned movies--essentially forming an R-rated soap opera--about the time adult film stars spend fully clothed while dealing with their messy lives. (The first installment was 2009's Women in Trouble, which never played Seattle but is available on DVD.)

Gutierrez is lucky enough to have as his girlfriend Carla Gugino (Spy Kids, Sin City), who plays the title role in Elektra Luxx. Aging, newly retired from the porn biz, and pregnant, warm-hearted Elektra wonders why "everyone has this bizarre compulsion to tell me all their problems." Well, the answer is that--as if you need to be told--there'd be no movie if she weren't so generous and helpful to the lost souls around her. Elektra isn't fancy. She isn't pretentious. She doesn't feign more than she knows. She's a strip-mall savant who's willing to use sex for utilitarian ends. And out of costume (meaning with her clothes on), she's the sort of anonymous diner who might be sitting next to you at TTT . . .

Before proceeding any further, let's admit the obvious. Yes, Paul Thomas Anderson and Boogie Nights have been to this porn terrain before. And better. (And there's even a Julianne Moore cameo, to help secure the connection.) But Gutierrez isn't quite such the moralist as Anderson. Born in Venezuela, the writer of genre pictures like Snakes on a Plane (yes, somebody had to), he has no use for Dirk Diggler's lost innocence, downfall, and redemption. Nor does Elektra. She's just trying to cope with her crazy, complicated life.

Her boyfriend, a rich songwriter, is dead. Not only has he left her with a bun in the oven, but there is a sheaf of valuable, unpublished song lyrics that serves as a McGuffin in this larky screwball noir. A private detective and femme fatale (Timothy Olyphant and Marley Shelton, respectively) are after the songs. Then there's a feather-brained pair of Elektra's former colleagues (Adrianne Palicki and Emmanuelle Chriqui), who go on vacation in Mexico to meet "adventure capitalists." And on the periphery is a basement-webcasting fanboy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who compares Elektra's retirement to JFK's assassination. And more, Elektra has a twin sister in jail (also played by Gugino, sans makeup and blonde wig).

Is it any wonder that Elektra wants a normal life? If she ever ventured north to Seattle, Tup Tim Thai is just the kind of place she'd want to eat. Nothing's too expensive on the menu; and, unlike her own life, you can control the spiciness on a scale of one to five. TTT embraces both the exotic (as Thai food was once considered) and the normal (as it is today). Which is exactly like porn: Elektra Luxx is set somewhere in the near-distant past, just after its heroine's early-'90s heyday. Cell phones are absent. The Internet isn't such a menace. And porno titles refer fondly backward to a simpler era: 2 Nymphomaniac Sisters Twin Sisters Part II carries the subtitle "Wetter Than Seattle." (When asked how she played both roles, Elektra cites "movie magic"; she's a veteran of the VHS era.)

In the same way, TTT hasn't really evolved in its 20-plus years on Lower Queen Anne. Like Elektra Luxx, it's a survivor. Though her #1 fan (Gordon-Levitt) lauds her breaking the proscenium with direct eye contact in her movies, Elektra is essentially a conservative, maternal figure. Like TTT, she's generous and accommodating. If sex is what you want, fine. (Though, ironically, there's precious little sex in the film. And nary a bared breast.) She aims to please, quite like the staff at TTT. Order the No. 40 Massaman Beef Curry ($12, including a side order of small white rice), and the server congratulates you like it's an excellent choice! Which, like Elektra's view of her fans, is just another routine but satisfying exchange.

That said, the staff at TTT are more disciplined and organized than Gutierrez is with his film. Instead of neatly arranging the cutlery, he keeps adding characters and secondary plot turns to Elektra Luxx, like so many unwanted entrees piled on your table. His project aspires to be an HBO mini-series, but the plates keep falling off the table. Meet a character that you like, and they disappear. Tune in for Part III, which may or may not resolve Elektra Luxx's cliffhanger ending. That trilogy-ender may not reach theaters. But since each of Gutierrez's first two porn romps were shot in about two weeks each, the cheap, third installment should be equally enjoyable at home on DVD or Netflix. And TTT does takeout, so it'll be the perfect combination.

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