A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (2008) is a hilarious documentary about one man’s love-life-as-horror-movie. A bleeding heart nightmare turned into a very cleverly packaged therapy session and sold as a post-youtube, realityTV odyssey of the Id. Actually, it’s not that pretentious, and it’s certainly not horrific, it’s actually very accessible, and desperately, achingly, wincingly, wrenchingly funny.
Chris Waitt is a thirty-something loser. Dressed in sloppy threads with a blonde haircut and a pasty dreary look that resembles Kurt Cobain masquerading as Prince Valiant, he presents himself to the camera in his teenage-tainted bedroom as an independent filmmaker. He’s been given funding to make a documentary, and the subject matter is his failed past relationships.
Over the course of the next ninety minutes Chris, perpetually armed with sound-recorder, boom and headphones, travels around London and sets off to Edinburgh (a couple of times) to visit his numerous ex-girlfriends (all apparently genuine) to interview them about how and why they dumped him. When he’s not videoing himself at home, he’s accompanied by a camera person who’s never seen or heard (conveniently none of the exes ever direct questions to this person, although they do occasionally give them a glare).
With the help of a friend, Chris sets up a MySpace page in an effort to create some fresh dates, and it is revealed that he’s had a problem in the bedroom; he’s got erectile dysfunction, adding physical insult to psychological injury. Apparently he’s a good kisser, but he sucks in almost every other department; all the exes complain of his laziness, lateness, and general inconsideration. Chris, in all his idiot oblivion, after considerable negativity from the exes, comes to the conclusion that the problem lies with them: he’s been habitually dating psychotic women.
As for the impotency problem Chris tackles all avenues and eventually tries Viagra, although he’s consuming several beers at the same time and doesn’t notice any effects and so pops another, and another, and another. Seven pills later, and he’s ended up with a raging eight-hour hard-on. He takes to the streets, drunk, pleading with female passersby to have sex with him. It’s the movie’s most “staged” sequence (although I’m guessing the reactions are genuine), and the movie’s only real sag into extended slapstick. Still, it ups the cringe factor, which is what this doco feeds on.
Watching the movie unfold, with Chris’s ineptitude and all the pitch-perfect-funny interviews with his exes (the ones who actually agree to be interviewed, and it takes Chris’s mother to convince a couple of them) one wonders just how genuine this documentary is. Could that many of his exes (and he’s had a few) really be that confident, articulate, and nice, in front of a camera talking about themselves and a relationship with a very problematic guy that essentially embarrasses them? Curiously, it’s the relationship with his mother, and also with ex-gf Vicki, that provides the doc with an anchor of poignancy.
But it is Chris’s cluelessness and the exasperation he causes in others that gives the documentary its real comedic edge. Despite his apparent immaturity he’s made a very effective and highly entertaining comedy of errors, of humiliation (the dungeon punishment issued out by Mistress Maisie for crimes against womanhood!), or schadenfreude, as the Germans like to call it.
The end credits reveal a statement from the director explaining that several of the women requested to have their names changed, and several of them threatened legal action after Chris tried to coerce them to appear on camera and be interviewed. But, of course!
—- film review by Bryn Tilly of cultprojections.com