The long sequence is erotic, though you don't see either of the two artists nude. It is hilarious: watch the way Linney, playing Columbia admission officer Louise Huntington, asks the young man if he has condoms. And then, one chuckles hearing the condom unwrap clumsily. But in the final reckoning, it is a life affirming sequence.
Some directors would have waited for more time to introduce the scene but director Dylan Kidd, a rising star on the independent film scene, wanted things differently.
'It is almost like Janet Leigh getting killed off 30 minutes into Psycho,' he said, adding, 'That is not really a good comparison.'
'But let's say I was handling a romantic genre movie for the first time and I did not want to take the usual, reticent route,' mused Kidd, whose debut movie Roger Dodger last year studied the fall of a misogynist. 'I wanted to shake off the usual movie-going rhythm.'
The new movie features That 70s Show star Topher Grace, who reminds Louise of a boyfriend who died in a car accident long ago, and opens in select cities this week.
Well appreciated critically, it has created a strong Oscar buzz for Linney whose performance here is far more complex and compelling than her work in Mystic River (as Sean Penn's wife) and the single mother in You Can Count On Me.
Her work in the film, struggling to make sense of her troubled brother and his friendship with her little boy, fetched her an Oscar nomination.
Most American movies, never mind critics of movies and television shows, treat sex cloyingly, argues Kidd.
'Sex and race are absolutely absent in any real kind of way in American cinema,' he asserted.
'When I watch the scene, my toes curl,' he added with a chuckle, 'and I really don't know whether it is because I am titillated or I feel awkward -- It could be all those things at the same time.'
He also said Linney, whose hits include The Truman Show opposite Jim Carrey, made things very comfortable for her young co-star.
ps is loaded with sexual content. In its second half, Louise's ex-husband (Gabriel Byrne) confesses that he had been battling a sexual addiction and that he had slept with men and women, including his students. Also, Louise's best friend, Missey (Marcia Gay Harden, Oscar winner for Pollock), talks about how she seduced Louise's boyfriend out of jealousy.
'Such relationships may seem odd to some people,' says Kidd, who based his film on the eponymous novel by Helen Shulman.
'I may be wrong about it,' he continues, 'but I feel American movies do not deal with the issue of a competitive element in many friendships between women.'