The Opposite of Sex

wri./dir. Don Roos
st. Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett
Rated M 101 mins

Well it's been dubbed the year of Christina Ricci's breats, with this movie and the upcoming Buffalo 66 showcasing her body post-Addams-family. And it's not such a bad thing! With Ricci, we finally get a taste of the America most of us see in Americans: loud, sex-obsessed, white trash with too much cash, attitude, flab and friends. Don Roos' dialogue is sharp and sarky, although the repeated intrusion of Ricci's irritatingly smug voiceover undermines the characterisation and story-telling in a painfully self-conscious manner. Her voiceover does however, display a playfulness and streak of cleverness in disruption of continuity, convention and characterisation. There are also some rare insights into relationships and the alienating aspect of casual sex and the paradox in which it often pushes people apart rather than bring them closer - hence the film's title. In a consumer society, sex is an instrument of power instead of ecstatic conjugation.

Below Right: Lovett and Donovan shoring up
Essentially, The Opposite of Sex is just not PC, stereotyped or dumb enough to be a mainstream film. There are moments of that rare screen honesty - whole conversations that take place in an exchange of glances, in the play of facial gestures between friends, lovers and wannabes. This privileged view, the pregnant pause of eye-to-eye contact, the concentration of the social to a one-on-one personal exchange is story-telling and human interaction as only film can show. In the flicker of the mutual gaze there is a magical clarity of expression reminiscent of the silent era, demanding greater performative nuances from the actors. On the other hand, this film treads the other well-worn extreme of trite Americanisms and suffers from a hamfisted interrogation of straight and gay tropes. Lyle Lovett and Martin Donovan shore up a crumbling dam of acting ability, with Lisa Kudrow consolidating Hollywood's flirtation with the Friends school of television-acting. And while it is depressing to watch American cinema becoming more and more like television, The Opposite of Sex is not quite the film you'd expect from the scriptwriter of Single White Female, Boys on the Side and the American remake of the French noir classic Diabolique. Don Roos' directing debut obviously has a lot invested in it, and whether or not it works for you is a measure of your tolerance for (a) irritating Americans and (b) occasionally juvenile irony.

eugene chew
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Below: Lisa Kudrow trying to be more than Friends

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