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Love & Sex opens with its protagonist, women’s magazine writer Kate, observing, “Falling in love is beautiful. We do it for one reason: Nothing in the world feels so good.” Whipped begins with Wall Street womanizer Brad asserting, “Everybody fucks everybody. It’s the nature of the beast.” Although both indie dating comedies are unusually frank about sexual matters and showcase on-the-rise young actresses (Famke Janssen and Amanda Peet, respectively), one is lively and charming and the other coarse and witless. No prize for guessing which is which.

In Love & Sex’s framing story, writer-director Valerie Breiman finds her heroine facing a career crisis. Her hard-nosed editor (Ann Magnuson) has just rejected Kate’s essay about oral sex on the grounds that it is insufficiently “happy” and “perky.” Despite her insistence that she “knows 10 times more about blowjobs than relationships,” Kate is threatened with dismissal. She returns to her desk and reviews her own erotic past in order to come up with an acceptable rewrite.

A series of unchronological flashbacks follows, depicting Kate’s romantic history. These include a prepubescent crush, sexual initiation with an oily French teacher, and an affair with a randy music-video producer that abruptly ends when she discovers he is married. At an art gallery, Kate encounters Adam (Jon Favreau), a scruffy painter who steals her away from her morose stand-up-comic date. They move in together and embark on a relationship overshadowed by Adam’s insecurity. (He’s troubled that he’s slept with only two women and Kate has had 13 lovers.) They break up and begin dating others: Adam attracts bubble-headed blondes, and Kate falls for a muscular De Niro-worshipping B-movie actor. But they can’t quite sever their ties to each other, and both toy with the idea of reuniting.

Breiman keeps her frothy plot moving briskly, with a string of breezy visual and verbal jokes. Imagining herself in bed with a soul-kissing dream lover, Kate awakens to find her cat licking her lips. In an attempt to win Kate back, Adam sends a bongo-playing midget to her office to plead his case in a singing telegram. Kate mistakes a door-to-door religious evangelist (an unbilled David Schwimmer) for a dating-service escort. Adam Kane’s sunny, mobile camerawork sustains the bubbly tone, reassuring viewers that, despite occasional bawdy sex and flatulence jokes, the movie will never succumb to vulgarity.

Love & Sex is a triumph for Dutch-born Janssen, trumping her appearance earlier this summer in X-Men. Tall, dark, and slim, with a distinctive equine beauty, she’s an earthy, unaffected performer. From some angles, Janssen resembles Sandra Bullock, but she is refreshingly free of the latter’s prom-queen shallowness. A plucky comic actress, she’s capable of shifting emotional gears when required, notably in a harrowing miscarriage sequence. Favreau, who wrote and starred in Swingers, doesn’t fare as well. Too charmless and unprepossessing to be entirely convincing as the love of Kate’s life, he appears to be channeling Woody Allen in his projection of Adam’s neurosis. Nevertheless, he manages to deliver Breiman’s one-liners with enough verve to sustain this appealing end-of-summer comedy.

In an early sequence of writer-director Peter M. Cohen’s sophomoric Whipped (no prize for supplying the implied prefatory noun, either), cocky swinger Brad (Brian Van Holt) picks up a woman in a singles’ bar and brings her back to his apartment. In bed, she performs anilingus on him, unaware that he’s suffering from an upset stomach, and then attempts to kiss him. It’s a gag designed to leave audiences gagging.

A dating comedy in the emetic tradition of There’s Something About Mary and American Pie, Whipped plumbs new depths of tastelessness. Wall Street wheeler-dealer Brad and his pals Zeke (Zorie Barber), “an East Village enigma,” and Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams), a West Village onanist, meet for brunch each Sunday to discuss their sexual exploits. All three fall for and sleep with free-spirited, sexually uninhibited Mia (Peet), initiating a competition that shatters their friendship.

Cohen’s screenplay functions as a net for a series of lewd vignettes. Zeke enjoys a threesome with a pair of punkettes who exhaust him and then steal his television set. Jonathan discovers Mia’s vibrator in her medicine chest, accidentally drops it into the toilet, and fishes through its feces-filled bowl in an attempt to retrieve it. Cohen’s dialogue indicates that his mom should have washed his mouth out with laundry soap. The male conversations largely consist of permutations of “fuck,” “dick,” “asshole,” and “prick,” interspersed with zingers like “She could suck a taxi driver through immigration.” Peter B. Kowalski’s cinematography, a collection of murky, static images, is appropriate to the movie’s crude tone. None of the male performers rise above the shoddy material, and top-billed Peet, who lit up the screen with her sly, sexy turn as a dentist’s receptionist with hitwoman ambitions in The Whole Nine Yards, sets her career back to Square One.

I generally comply with the reviewers’ unwritten code of not revealing too much of a movie’s plot. In this case, however, I can’t resist going the distance to divulge Whipped’s rankness in order to spare readers exposure to it. Near the fadeout, the Neanderthal buddies arrive at the conclusion that “women are more like us than we imagine.” Cohen proves them right by cutting to a brunch scene with Mia and her potty-mouthed girlfriends in which we learn that her involvement with the three men was an act of vengeance designed to punish their swinishness. Only a clueless, misogynistic male filmmaker could devise an O. Henry denouement in which a woman uses sex (rather than intelligence, invective, or a handgun) as a weapon of feminist retaliation. Mia ends by vindictively echoing Brad: “Everybody fucks everybody in the end.”

Whipped’s closing credits include outtakes from the cutting room floor, where all of the film should have gone. CP