The Opposite of Sex
1998, R, 103 min. Directed by Don Roos. Starring Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Galecki, Ivan Sergei.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 3, 1998
A nasty, offensive, and thoroughly enjoyable romp through the dark, embittered land of Bad Girl, U.S.A., Don Roos' directorial debut (he wrote Boys on the Side and Single White Female, as well as the script for The Opposite of Sex) is the anti-indie -- a post-PC broadside that manages to skewer everyone from gays to straights, the living to the dead, and never makes you laugh as hard as when it's being downright creepy. Ricci -- as a sort of post-pubescent Wednesday Addams whirlwind -- is 16-year-old Dedee Truitt, who flees her Louisiana home after the death of her abusive stepfather and promptly arrives on the palatial doorstep of her half-brother Bill (Donovan), an Indiana schoolteacher who has recently lost his longtime companion to AIDS. While Dedee is the antithesis of Christian charity (her ongoing narration warns viewers from the get-go that she “doesn't have a heart of gold” and she “isn't going to grow one” either), Bill is positively saint-like in his quiet, stoic generosity. Alongside his new, none-too-bright lover Matt (Sergei), he welcomes this virtual relative into his beautiful home and then by degrees comes to regret his hospitality. In quick succession, Dedee seduces Matt, gets herself pregnant by him, and lightens Bill of 10 grand on the way out of town to Los Angeles. None of this comes as a surprise to Lucia (Kudrow), Bill's ex-lover's semi-frigid sister, who spots Dedee for the predator she is right off the bat. Torn between his love for Matt and his impotent anger towards his conniving step-sister, Bill mopes, pines, and finally throws up his hands in dismay until -- presto! -- things get worse. Matt's queeny ex-flame Jason (Galecki, tackily pulling out all the stops), an ex-student of Bill's, threatens to frame him for scholastic sodomy (and then does) if he doesn't produce the missing Matt posthaste. Then it's off to the City of Angels for more mayhem, a few car chases, and some improbable sex courtesy of Lyle Lovett's Sheriff Tippett. As promised by the film's tagline (“You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be offended”), The Opposite of Sex has a little something to annoy everyone. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Roos' film is immensely entertaining. It's not just the glib emotional attitudes that are bandied about so frequently, but some great acting chops from Ricci (who somehow manages to make the scurrilous Dedee at least vaguely sympathetic) and Kudrow, whose emotionally denuded Lucia not only gets the film's best lines but also has the most complex character. It's a far cry from her usual featherhead-blonde roles, and she brings it to alarming, bitter life. Still, The Opposite of Sex is above all else a comedy. Black -- no sugar, no cream -- to be sure, and refreshingly free of PC pabulum. Even some third-act deus ex machina scrambling can't homogenize the film's darkly cynical punch. Tough as nails and twice as hilarious, it's a remedy for summer treacle.