If the B movies style nudie films of the past come to mind when you imagine the film nudist positive movie Act Naturally then banish the thought. The first thing that impressed me about the movie was the quality. Act Naturally, written and directed by JP Riley is professionally filmed and edited. No cheesy lighting, no bad sound, thin plots or sloppy scene cuts. Once I got past the concern of a below TV movie grade straight to DVD type movie I settled in to watch what turned out to be a very entertaining and informative movie about the clothes free lifestyle.
The plot centers on two young women Leah Collins (Katie Hall) and Charlie Tillerman (Liz Lytle) who discover they are connected to each other through their biological and adopted father who is secretly the owner of a nudist resort. The father has been leading a double life keeping his nudist lifestyle a secret when he is accidentally killed leaving the resort to his two daughters. All the secrets become exposed when the two women travel to the resort in Arizona to clearup their father’s affairs. Though the movie is billed as a comedy, I would call it a dramatic comedy. There are definitely many comedic elements but a fair amount of drama as well. That makes for a good movie.
One element of tension is the marked difference between the two women. Leah is a professional in financial industry, Charlie is a waitress. Leah is a highly organized straight laced individual who believes she has everything under control. Charlie is an avant garde flakey person living on a prayer. The two get to know and appreciate each other and know themselves as the movie progresses.
From road trip to fish out of water and personal transformation, Act Naturally uses many of the tried and true cinematic themes to introduce the viewer to the values and principles of the nudist/naturist lifestyle and practice. All the things of import are covered. The way nudism promotes body acceptance; positive body image; reduces dependence own material things; increases the connection to nature; cultivates a sense of community and family and expresses positive non sexual nudity. None of this is communicated in a preachy way. Rather the values and principles are artfully woven into the back stories of the various characters using both first person story telling akin to a Shakespearean soliloquy and flash back sequences. Despite extensive nudity, the film is artfully shot so that there are no gratuitous crotch shots. In in the one hilarious scene that shows full frontal nudity Leah learns one of the cardinal rules of social nudism keep your gaze on the eyes and don’t gawk at the genital area.
Lest you think this a perfect film let me point out a couple of flaws. The soundtrack was uneven. While some of the songs and music fit perfectly with the tone of the scenes, others feel out of place. I was disappointed that there were no people of color represented in the movie. There were many other examples of the acceptance of the naturist community. People with physical scars Kristi (Susan May Pratt) , the gay community (Alan Cox), imperfect bodies (Leah) and negative body image (Charlie), but no non white individuals. It took a little, just a little away from the film for me. Finally some pre-production tanning would have added a little credibility to a couple of the characters who had obvious tan lines which would likely be absent for full time residents of a nudist resort. There was also scences with the resort staff using many glass bottles around the pool asee which also seems unlikely at a resort. But if we suspend disbelief for a moment these small flaws dissolve if the powerful and positive message of the film.
All and all Act Naturally is a pleasing film that I could see my self owning and watching over and over again. I believe most nudist and naturists will be very proud of how this film portrays the lifestyle. Because of the cinematic quality and well told story the movie could be a great ice breaker for initiating a conversation about nudism with non nudist friends and family. Some sexual situations and language make this unsuitable for young children.
According to JP Riley Act Naturally is in limited theatrical release in selected theaters (NYC, LA, portland, Seattle, Miami, Chicago) and is also available to rent or buy on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play or purchase on DVD from the Act Naturally web site.