By Don Simpson | December 16, 2011
Director: Amber Sealey
Writer: Amber Sealey
Starring: Kent Osborne, Amber Sealey, Amanda Street, Gabriel Diamond, V. Kim Blish, Dan Ewen, Francesca Ferrara, Colette Freedman, Vanessa Peters, Jade Sealey, Jules Bruff, Paulette Osborne, Nick Pavey
Beth (Amber Sealey) and Mark (Kent Osborne) have been married for a few years and though their friends have started to have children, Beth and Mark are still childless. Their marriage is on the rocks, but Beth and Mark continue desperately — and clinically — in their attempts to get pregnant. (“It’s like washing a dog in a bathtub,” Mark confides to a friend.) Their unsuccessful attempts at having a child have caused a seemingly insurmountable tension to develop between them, an uncomfortable situation that is exacerbated further by the haunting specter of a miscarriage that Beth experienced a year ago.
At this point in time, Mark is not even sure that he still wants to have a baby. Being that we first meet Mark as he dances in the buff around the backyard of his Los Angeles home without any inhibitions or cares, we know that Mark wants to be free to do whatever he wants to do. So Mark rebels against Beth’s rigid and controlling nature by pursuing an affair. He joins join an online dating service, and in between chauffeur gigs Mark begins his search for someone to cheat on Beth with. Mark quickly discovers that he really has no clue about how to cheat. (Hence the film’s title.) He inexplicably admits to all of his dates that he is married (and not separated); and, in all but one case, that news sends the ladies running away. Mark does eventually find someone who will kiss him despite his marital status, but it is unclear at first if the flirtatious woman (Amanda Street) is merely playing psychotic mind games with him.
Writer-director-actor Amber Sealey’s How to Cheat is an intriguingly unique perspective of the decline of a marriage. Mark’s choice to begin cheating seems to be mostly Beth’s fault, while the woman with whom Mark opts to cheat is at least partially to blame for seducing him. In other words, rather than working as a condemnation of Mark’s lack of moral fortitude, How to Cheat appears to be making excuses for Mark. Heck, even Mark’s therapist (Paulette Osborne) encourages him to pursue other women. And while I enjoyed the subtle nuances of the naturalistic performances, I just could not wrap my head around why Mark keeps getting let off of the hook.