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THE OPPOSITE OF SEX

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Christina Ricci, Martin Donavan, Ivan Sergei, Lisa Kudrow
Director:  Don Roos
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer, Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Length:  100 Minutes
Release Date:  November 17, 1998

Film ***

Say what you will about The Opposite of Sex, but it's definitely an unusual experience.  Bold and brash, and politically incorrect almost to a fault, if there is such a thing, and filled with mostly unlikable characters, this still ends up a good, entertaining film.

Christina Ricci, who I think is one of the best young actresses working today, plays Dedee Truitt, the film's protagonist and ever present narrator.  You haven't met a character quite like Dedee.  Crude, vulgar, self centered, she warns early on, "I don't have a heart of gold. And I don't grow one later."  This in itself makes the film interesting and unusual.  Rarely are we given a protagonist who's so decidedly hateful, and who relishes the fact that both the people in the movie and those watching the movie hate her.

Dedee runs away from her overbearing mother after the funeral of her stepfather, whom she hated, to live with her gay brother, Bill (Donovan) and his live in lover, Matt (Sergei).  She decides rather quickly to seduce Matt and run off with him because...well, that would be telling too much, and I don't want to give away much of the story.  I knew very little about the movie prior to watching it, and I think that fact added to my overall enjoyment of it.

Thrown in for good measure are Kudrow as the sister of Bill's first deceased boyfriend, Galecki (from Roseanne) as a jilted lover, and Lyle "Bad Hair Life" Lovett (just kidding, Lyle, you're cool) as a cop, and you have a terrific cast of characters, most of whom aren't very sympathetic, but you soon come to realize that's because they're so real, and maybe most real people aren't all that nice either.

The cynicism in this movie is almost overwhelming.  There are a few scenes early on where Bill laments the loss of Matt, but with a scathing commentary by Dedee talking about what a pathetic joke it all is.  It's enough to make you squirm just a little.

Dedee comments on just about everything: love, relationships, homosexuality, and of course, sex in general.  She talks so much during the film's first half hour I kept thinking I was listening to a DVD commentary track.  Hazard of the hobby, I suppose.

And her views on everything are so...well, honest is a good word, if you subscribe to the old philosophy that truth is based on point of view.  And although this is a film with no nudity, and only a couple of brief, safe enough for TV sex scenes, I have to say that the overall effect of this film made me feel dirtier than just about anything I can remember.  Mostly because sex is largely reduced by Dedee's sharp tongue (and a few others) to be nothing more than something clinical, an exchange of fluids, something that leads to death, disease and unwanted children, a means to manipulate, and something that overtakes, rather than supplements, a loving relationship.

But let me back up here.  This is a comedy, first and foremost, and it is filled with some good laughs along the way, and despite its deliberately taking measures to be the opposite of everything a likeable movie should be, it succeeds well.  And the performances are good across the board—I particularly liked Donovan's thoughtful and decent Bill, and Kudrow as the intrusive Lucia.  But the movie rests squarely on Ricci's capable shoulders, and her terrific and honest performance is what anchors the movie and makes it work.

Video ***1/2

Columbia Tri Star upholds its reputation as the author of some of the best looking discs available. You have a choice of anamorphic widescreen transfer or standard.  I only watched the widescreen version, but I found it a quality viewing experience, with good, natural color rendering throughout and crisp, clean imaging, with no distracting grain or breakup. 

Audio **

The soundtrack is merely a stereo mix, but it is actually serviceable given the nature of the film. Looks great, sounds fine.

Features ***

There are a trailer, deleted scenes, and commentary track by Don Roos. I would have loved a commentary by Christina Ricci, though.

Summary:

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional film that’s designed to make you squirm, and The Opposite of Sex more than fills the quota on that.  It is biting and cynical, but funny and smart, and features a memorable lead in the talented Christina Ricci.  It may not be the most pleasurable film you’ve ever watched, but you might just appreciate the audacity of it all, and how different it is from the typical romantic fluff comedy.