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The Opposite of Sex

Written and Directed by Don Roos

Cast: Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett, Ivan Sergei, and Johnny Galecki.

Don Roos’ new film concerns the coming-of-age adventures of Dedee Truitt (Ricci), 16, sassy and cynical as hell, who manages to win our hearts because even though her smarts make her smart-assed, she’s obvious despite herself, and can’t help getting embroiled in the jams which ensue from the kind of self-serving behaviour that was supposed to keep her out of them. Not that we’re getting a little heart-warming fable about the transcending power of love here. Well - we are, but only in the stylish, ironic, roundabout way that makes it possible to take these days. “I don’t have a heart of gold, and I don’t grow one later,” she warns us in voice-over from the outset, and you’d be well-advised to listen up. “This isn’t one of those stories that ends with ‘I was never the same again after that summer’.”




After her stepfather’s funeral, our contemporary female Huck Finn runs away from her dysfunctional (aren’t they all?) Louisiana white trash home, turning up on the Indiana doorstep of her schoolteacher half-brother Bill (Donovan), who is still grieving over the death from AIDS of his former lover, ably assisted by not-too-bright new boyfriend Matt (Sergei), and his late lover’s sister Lucia (Kudrow), a left-on-the-shelf colleague who’s fancied him for years. A nice house and fat inheritance also help.
Within a matter of weeks, Dedee has seduced Matt, announced she’s pregnant, and taken off to LA with her new love, plus a bag-full of Bill’s money, and his ex-lover’s ashes. She also has to cope with her local yokel, redneck stalker ex-boyfriend, the real father of her child. To make things worse, Matt’s ex-lover (Galecki) appears, and claims to have been abused by Bill while a student. Bill struggles to remain detached from all this, but finds himself setting off in hot pursuit with Lucia, to be joined later by local sheriff Carl (Lovett), who happens to have a thing for the unresponsive Lucia.
Good direction, great performances (Kudrow is the only Friend with a life beyond Friends), subtle and believable characterisation, but the real winner is the droll, more- brilliant-one-liners-than-you-could-shake-a-stick-at script, both in dialogue and narration. To quote overmuch would be to spoil the surprises, but they encompass Tom Cruise’s ambivalent sexuality; on-screen gay kissing; the generation gap (which now exists between those in their late teens and those in their late thirties) - “Welcome to the planet Maturia, we have much to teach you,” Lucia tells Dedee at one point; and politics in schools (when everything is settled to his satisfaction Galecki decides to change his story and say that those anti-evolutionist, homophobic Christian Right members of the school board put him up to making the accusations against Bill). There’s another splendid moment where we fear Dedee may just have got herself killed, but then we hear: “Deerr , keep up, I’m the narrator, remember.”)
With highly creditable contributions from the whole ensemble, it may seem like personal prejudice to single out Ricci, but she is the star of the show after all, and the casting of her as Dedee was inspired. Only 17 when this movie was made, and with previous appearances in The Ice Storm and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas already under her belt, she is shaping up to be one of the finest young actresses of her generation. In Buffalo 66 she made the most of what was an insubstantial role for a woman. Here, she’s landed a plum, and with a character as memorable as a female Holden Caulfield for the late 90s, she would have really had to fuck up bigtime to come out of it without covering herself in kudos. Still, she does it all oh-so-well, because she makes it all look oh-so-easy. You even come away believing that Dedee may well never be the same again after that summer.
More please, and soon.

First published in Film Ireland









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