Netflix Fix: 'Natural Selection' a sweet, dark comedy about pleasing yourself
June 19, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.
Linda would like to have sex with her husband.
It's a difficult task though because her husband, the good Christian that he is, believes sex without the possibility of procreation is a sin.
Linda is a good Christian, too, so when her husband starts praying to the Lord to take away his wife's sinful desires, she kneels down next to him and starts praying, too. Linda's been putting up with this for more than 20 years.
You can only imagine the shock then when she discovers that her good, Christian husband has had a stroke while getting off to some hilariously unholy porn at a sperm bank that he has been visiting since at least 1988.
"Natural Selection" (R, 1 hour, 30 minutes) isn't about Linda losing her faith because of her husband's indiscretions. It actually has little to do with her faith at all.
Linda is a good person, and her faith is set. Rachel Harris, whom you'll recognize as that funny lady from everywhere, shines in this countercast character. With little makeup on, Harris brings to life Linda's sincere heart and warmth in the face of difficult times.
Though her husband has betrayed her trust, when he whispers to her on what could be his deathbed to go find his son, she dutifully complies. Linda may be naive, but I don't think she's a dummy. She has always wanted children. She believes that to be a good Christian woman she needs to be able to raise and care for children. She's doing this for her husband, but she's doing it for herself as well.
So Linda hops in the hatchback, spirits renewed with purpose, to find Raymond, her lying husband's sperm-bank son in Tampa. When she knocks on the door of a dilapidated shack, she probably has a sense that this long-lost son isn't the picture of familial perfection. But when Raymond, unkempt and foul-mouthed, appears in the doorway, she trudges along, desperate to get this man to see his father.
Raymond is the complete opposite of Linda; he is a cynical liar whose ambitions mostly include eluding the police.
"I'm begging you," Linda writes on a card after Raymond throws her out of his house. The card is sweet, but it's only after the police come knocking on his door that he meets up with Linda again - with crossing state lines as fast as he can on his mind.
The movie really takes off as a darkly comic road trip of these two characters, both with different end goals, learning about each other and getting into various situations. Linda doesn't drink; Raymond is a boozehound. Linda is sweet and generous; Raymond is bitter and selfish.
The movie always is teetering on punishing Linda for her naivete, but Harris is able to elevate her character into someone who isn't dumb for believing in the good in all people. Her decision and actions are admirable, and as the movie unravels and we figure out why Linda is barren and her other life goals and dreams, we begin to understand that she's actually quite the strong woman. She'd have to be for staying with a man who wouldn't touch her for all those years.
Through their journey, you might realize you're sensing a strange sexual tension between Linda and Raymond. You'll wonder if it's weird to be sensing this - an attraction between a woman and her husband's biological son.
Linda and Raymond definitely teach each other through their cross-country experience, and sex does come up, but it doesn't tie up the much more interesting aspects of the film, like pleasing the most important person in your life: yourself.
Raymond does eventually get to Houston to meet Linda's husband - but in a much more gratifying moment than a cliched, father-son reunion type of way. There are great twists toward the end of the movie, and the conclusion is completely satisfying. Engaging and original, the movie is deceptively sweet and strong - just like my new favorite heroine, Linda.