‘sex, lies, and ..,’ strikingly original film explores sex motives and love

By Vittorio Carli

“sex,lies and videotape” is a strikingly original film that explores the psycological motivations behind sex. It features a unique love quadrilateral that consists of an uptight and sensitive housewife, her crude but bold sister, her traitorous husband and his impotent college friend.

Andie MacDowell plays a neurotic housewife named Ann. During a psycotherapy session she reveals that she thinks sex is overated. This is the way she deals with the fact that she never has intercourse with her husband. There is an unspoken barrier between them and they even avoid touching each other.

Her husband, John, is a sleezy and callous lawyer who continually deceives his wife. He has an affair with his own sister-in-law and even sleeps with her in his wife’s bed.

Laura San Giacomo plays Cynthia: the seductive but shallow sister-in-law. In many ways she seems to be the opposite of Ann. She is promiscuous and vulgar while Ann is timid and prudish. Cynthia’s flashy dress style contrasts with the simplicity and plainess of Ann’s attire. Cynthia resents her sister and seems to be reacting against her. She appears to be having the affair with her sister’s husband for the same reason.

Then Graham arrives and he forces the two women to re-examine their lives. Graham used to be John’s college roomate but the two of them have grown apart with time. Graham is calm, enigmatic and slightly secretive. Ann is impressed by his candor and she ends up opening up to him in a way that she could never do with her husband.

Graham has a dark secret that he shares with Ann. He arouses himself by videotaping women while they’re talking about their sex lives.

Ann seems to be simultaneously repelled and fascinated by Graham’s hobby. Eventually both Ann and Cynthia consent to being videotaped. This causes the sisters to rexamine their lives and change their destinies.

All of the performances in the film are superb. James Spader (Graham) exudes nervousness and a quiet intelligence that is fascinating. He always appears to be thinking and his slow delivery of the dialogue gives the impression that he is choosing his words with extreme carefulness.

This was the first film directed by Steve Sodenberg. It was released to unprecedented acclaim and won first prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The film more than deserves the raves it’s been receiving. It’s definitely one of the most memorable American films of the year.