We all yearned to be cool growing up. When I was in the fourth grade, a group of boys asked me if I had a “c*nt.” Not having any idea that the word referred to female genitalia and desperate to fit in, I answered in the affirmative to their great amusement.

Now, imagine you have been told your entire life that premarital sex and masturbation were sinful. What does one do during high school, when hormones are raging out of control? Writer-director Karen Maine answers this very question in her sweet coming-of-age film, Yes, God, Yes.

Sixteen-year-old Alice (Natalia Dyer of “Stranger Things” fame) goes to a Catholic high school in Iowa. She is painfully naïve yet super horny, pausing the sex scene in Titanic to indulge her curiosity. From the onset of the film, Alice simply wants to have the space to masturbate and achieve orgasm. But, her family, friends and school always seem to get in the way of reaching that goal.

Despite being told that masturbation is a sin, Alice is still curious. A nasty rumor is circulating throughout the school that she “tossed” a boy’s “salad.” Alice doesn’t even know what that means. So is Alice the “slut” her peers believe she is? She has tentative cybersex on an AOL chatroom (it’s the late ‘90s) and tries to get off with the buzz feature of her cell phone. So what? Then the shit really hits the fan when she’s sent off on a four-day retreat with her classmates to connect with God.

In her directorial debut, screenwriter Maine (Obvious Child) keeps things light and breezy. This is not a raunchy sex romp a la American Pie but a sweet comedy about a confused girl battling against the hypocrisy rife in her upbringing. Alice must navigate sexual suppression while coming of age, a potential minefield for more crass movies to exploit. Instead, there is something quaint about Yes, God, Yes, a film that makes its point without resorting to something like a girl fellating a banana.

Dyer does heavy lifting as the confused Alice, commanding nearly every scene of the film’s brisk 77-minutes with quiet desperation. But despite her performance, Yes, God, Yes does stumble in places. Alice runs away from the camp at one point and finds salvation down the road at a lesbian bar that feels like a deus ex machina rather than an organic plot point. There she meets a woman (Susan Blackwell as a lapsed Catholic) who not only affirms Alice’s existence but also solves one of the film’s lingering mysteries. It feels like Maine is showing her a hand a little bit too much.

Ultimately, Yes, God, Yes preaches that we should be who we want to be without guilt. Though it all feels a little naïve, much like the younger me who swore that he had a body part that he clearly did not, the film ultimately succeeds on its charm and its winning star. If you’re after gross-out gags, look elsewhere. Yes, God, Yes is a winningly funny celebration of self-pleasure without the shame.

Summary
This is not a raunchy sex romp a la American Pie but a sweet comedy about a confused girl battling against the hypocrisy rife in her upbringing.
64 %
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