Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) by Steven Soderbergh
From death and sex to sex and lies. Bridging on over to Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) is definitely going from a low to a high. Everest-achieving, mountains-that-touch-clouds-high. Wait, mountains that pass clouds. Strangely enough, this film that has so much to do with sex, has a sophisticated way of presenting it.
The opening, fast-paced driving, music, road. Is it life? Is it… sex? It’s definitely an introduction that quickens the intro yet inserts the viewer into a world of questions. Who is who? How does everyone connect? This film’s whole way of presenting information, characters, relations screams MAGNIFICENCE. So, as a warning, I apologize for praising this film, before I begin doing so. As a side note, I’m not going to give too much away because I feel the best part is definitely having everything unravel.
So what better way to have the viewer asking questions then introducing several people without showing them interact with each other, and in the film’s first presence of wit, having an interesting conversation between Ann (Andie MacDowell) and her therapist that interplays playfulness with thoughtfulness. The dialogue is beautifully written. It’s realistic, it’s playful, but it is also thought-provoking and interconnected with the storyline.
Watch the film for yourself to see the various interpretations of sex and lies because the contradictions and juxtapositions are endless and create dynamic upon dynamic (Look out for who really is a liar and who is said to be a liar and for what reasons). One person’s interpretation and another person’s acceptance is one’s hypocrisy and another’s realization (One character doesn’t care much about sex but what about adultery?).
Soderbergh’s film tells the story of four individuals. Ann and John (Peter Gallagher), married, yet haven’t had sex in awhile. Is this typical? Well, it seems not. Ann has unconscious suspicions that there’s a reason she’s grown more weird about being touched by John, on top of her interesting admittance that she doesn’t really care much for sex. She suspects lies. However, preoccupying herself with an interesting situation that John has created, she meets an old friend of John who comes into town, Graham (James Spader), a man who has an interest in interviewing women about their sex life. Without giving too much away, the interconnections of the characters, and the character development is MAGNIFICENT, and how Laura San Giacomo’s character Cynthia, who is Ann’s sister, plays into all this is wickedly harsh and intense. (Look at how she is presented throughout the film: reverse zooms, upside down, etc.) When things start lining up, the complexity of sex and lies grows. What is marriage? How does sex have anything to do with it? Is it just for security? (Notice how society and marriage used to be more about finding security to nowaday’s idea of finding love.)
Interestingly enough, the characters have each their own quirks. Each has a wit about them, thanks no doubt to the witty construction of their characterization and their beliefs. But presentation is beautiful. The omniscient music isn’t overbearing yet it’s telling. Listen to the fog of smoke that is the score and you’ll know something is coming. The fade to black during one scene and the presentation of filmed footage of Graham’s is beautiful; it strays slightly from the linear storytelling of the movie, yet doesn’t complicate understanding. You anticipate what will happen next. You sort of know: when an “earring” goes missing, and a f-bomb is used… it’s only a matter of time.
In the end, after the chaos has erupted, … and the rains came. A chance of rain? I think so. Cleansing what occurs at the end, giving a rebirth, a catharsis, one character says, “I think it’s gonna rain.” The other replies, “it is raining.” A perfect symbolic natural ending, a new beginning, yet the two characters paired up seems too “perfect fairy tale,” and would have been better, in my opinion, had the main character become an independent individual, at least for the time being.
All I have to say is, I am eager to hear the commentary, to see what I may not have noticed that the director constructed, as well as what he says about the film’s process. Definitely watch this movie. I purposely left a lot of holes in this review BECAUSE I don’t want to give away too much. So go, find out! Watch the film, and dear Mr. Soderbergh, I’ll be searching for your films at my local library. On the meantime, dear mom and dad, I found a new movie for my film wish list. :D
Ten Word Summary: Suspicion grows into Ann. Is it speculation? What’s Cynthia doing?
The Aftershock: So good, it’s commentary worth listening to.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Personal Note: Informative commentary worth listening to again.