|The Opposite of Sex
It's unlikely that you've ever met a screen character like Dedee Truitt. She's an angry world-weary,
tough-talking Southern sixteen-year-old who runs away from home to live with her older half-brother Bill
in Indiana, who (a) happens to be gay and (b) whose life she turns upside-down. Dedee is the narrator of
the comedy-drama The Opposite of Sex, written and directed by Don Roos. Roos was the screenwriter
behind Love Field, Single White Female and Boys on the Side, all of which featured strong female characters
and here he does not disappoint. As she tells the audience from the outset, Dedee "does not grow a heart
of gold" by the film's end. That's not to say she isn't changed by her experiences, which include pregnancy,
the seduction of Bill's lover, robbery, an accidental death and other assorted adventures. This is not your
average movie, folks. In fact, The Opposite of Sex is a highly original and engaging film.
In the hands of a lesser actress Dedee could become cloying or cutesy, but Roos wisely cast
Christina Ricci in the role and let her loose. By the time this film was made Ricci was a ten-year veteran
who had moved into more adult (i.e., sexual) territory with her roles in The Ice Storm and Buffalo 66.
With The Opposite of Sex, she adds a vibrant characterization to her already impressive list of credentials,
with her dead-on acting choices. She does not condescend to the character who does and says terrible
things, yet there is a core of vulnerability and likability that keeps the audiences attention. If she weren't
already a star, this would be her star-making role.
Roos cast the other roles to perfection as well. Martin Donovan plays Bill, the deceptively quiet
almost — and I mean almost — passive schoolteacher who truly cares about Dedee despite all her faults.
Ivan Sergei is a handsome presence as a "himbo" who recognizes his intellectual limitations and Johnny
Galecki (perhaps best recalled as Darlene's boyfriend David on the sitcom "Roseanne") is quite funny as
a militant gay with ties to Sergei's character. Lyle Lovett lends a quiet dignity to his turn as a local sheriff
and Lisa Kudrow is especially fine as Bill's colleague and friend, and the sister of his now- dead lover.
Kudrow is miles away from her ditsy TV persona here, etching a strong portrait of a woman embittered
"by observation". Roos has written a script that is both witty and touching. In his view, The Opposite of Sex
is commitment and love and each character must grapple with what that means to him or to her.
It may take multiple viewings for the audience to fully appreciate this richly acted film. The first time
I saw it, I was captivated by the women; Ricci is clearly a dominate presence and it was pleasantly startling
to see Kudrow stretch and handle more dramatic fare. A repeat viewing made me appreciate the
contributions of Donovan, Sergei and Lovett. While Roos has claimed that he never set out to be a
director, he proves a natural behind the camera. Using Ricci's voice-over narration is a plus that offers
some of the films best gags. The dramatic turns are integrated without calling too much attention to
themselves and while one might quibble with the way some story threads are neatly woven together
at the end, The Opposite of Sex proves to be an enjoyable ride.
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and sex related dialogue and sexuality
Running time: 105 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.