Wednesday, July 8, 1998

The Opposite of Sex

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Remarkably, mainstream cinema's fascination with independent-style wittiness just grows and grows. On top of that fetish, writer-director Don Roos' debut feature, The Opposite of Sex, exploits popular cultural interest in gayness with a game hunter's fervor. It's an unusually well-timed piece of work.

How about an unsparingly frank look at sexuality on the order of Neil LaBute's shocker of last year, In the Company of Men? Nice try, but LaBute's effort was a one of a kind, not the worthwhile crest of a new wave in terminal meanness. Instead of lambasting women, Roos' movie sets into homosexuals through Dedee (Christina Ricci), a racy broad who easily fits the label of "white trash." Unluckily for us, Dedee gets the honor of being the film's omniscient narrator, complete with countless "fag" jokes and disses.

We meet Dedee on the outset of her moving in with her half-brother Bill (Martin Donovan), a gay English teacher. Bill has gained an unexpected amount of wealth upon the death of a partner from AIDS and is starting over with a new guy, Matt (Ivan Sergei). Unfortunately for Bill, Dedee is hell on wheels and means to level his existence.

One day, Dedee seduces Matt and persuades him to leave Bill behind as they run away to Los Angeles. Dedee's chicanery knows no bounds. Yet, we are somehow supposed to identify with her as she wields wickedness to savage Bill and his buddy Lucia (Lisa Kudrow). After all, Dedee is the most "whole" of these misfits, with her immense capacity for violence and emotional terrorism.

She eventually gets knocked up and reveals that Matt is the father. Perhaps Roos thinks that pregnancy will elicit some sympathy for this rabid she-demon. Not a chance. Instead, she remains largely remorseless while wreaking disasters upon Roos' cast of cutouts. Their inevitable victory seems a bit flimsy, though. Roos' story is largely a triumph of conventional mores through absurdly cute narrative tricks. Sometimes a screenwriter really is too smart for his own good.

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