I’m not much for the lying, but I am a fan of both sex and videotape, we’ll see how this goes!
Written By: Steven Soderbergh
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Hmmm, where do I start with Sex, Lies And Videotape? It was a movie that required plenty of thought because it was essentially a theme movie. The story played second fiddle to the issues or themes that director Steven Soderbergh wanted to put forth. This ended up being both a strength and a weakness of Sex, Lies And Videotape. Because while at times the theme first approach worked, it also failed in the moments where deeper inspection of the characters and their actions was required.
Sex, Lies And Videotape took a deep look at the topics of sex, marriage, honesty, gender roles within sex and life, and surprisingly conversation or basic human interaction. It brought forth a world where the conversation or the chase is more important than the ultimate goal of sex. I felt that the karma like ending with the husband getting his just due was a bit of a cheat from the immersion into those themes. In a movie that had been very much focused on the irregular or the way of thinking outside the norm, the ending felt far too normal and far too black & white. But, back to the themes themselves for a second. I particularly liked the exploration of gender roles in sex and how Cynthia was the atypical view society has of men in regards to sex. This was juxtaposed in Graham who took on the role of the societal view of women in sex.
In a movie where themes are more important than the story, it falls to the actors to make sure those themes play out through their actions and through their believability as the vessel for said themes. Therein lies the biggest fault in Sex, Lies And Videotape. Andie MacDowell is a much maligned actress, but I thought she was remarkably spot on as the vanilla housewife in this film. The same goes for Laura San Giacomo as the sexually open Cynthia and Peter Gallagher as the duplicitous John. However, I didn’t find James Spader’s portrayal of Graham to be in line with what that character needed. There’s no way to buy all those women sitting down and exposing their inner most sexual thoughts and desires as well as displaying themselves sexually for someone like Graham as Spader played him. He went too much for the nerdy misanthrope and in doing so made his character the least believable of the bunch.
Sex, Lies And Videotape is regarded in high circles among Soderbergh fans and among film aficionados who view it as the indie film that made indie movies cool again as well as shaped the indie style for years to come. There’s plenty to love about Sex, Lies And Videotape. From its layered themes, to its wonderful dialogue and use of settings and locales. But, the ending comes across as false, Spader is a bit of a let down and the theme first approach doesn’t always work. Still, Sex, Lies And Videotape is a good film and it is a good introduction to the work of a director who went on to achieve a bit of a cult status in film circles.