sex, lies and videotape (1989)

“Summer of Film #9 of 100”:
The advent of sex, lies and videotape in 1989 caused three things major events to occur:

  1. It brought the attention of the world upon the great Steven Sorderbergh who not only lived up to his indy protégé status but soon surpassed it with his back-to-back Oscar favorites Erin Brokovich and the brilliant Traffic and his bringing together one of the great ensemble casts in modern motion picture history for Ocean’s Eleven.
  2. It lended it’s title to countless unimaginative gossip rags, entertainment mags and scandalous newspaper stories. You could almost hear the editor say, a few minutes before going to press: ‘What are we going to call this article? If you can’t think of anything, I’m going with sex, lies and …‘ you know what. And very rarely do those articles have anything to do with sex, lies and videotape; but who cares? It sells.
  3. Finally, and probably most significantly, sex, lies and videotape brought on the independent film revolution that arguably hasn’t ended yet. And for that, if for nothing else, this movie is a classic. It made the ’90s a great time to start my film life.

Having said all of that- the movie failed to impress. It is intriguing, challenging and has one of the most eerily endearing performances on film (James Spader) but for me, there was no connective tissue.

The film involves Ann (Andi MacDowell), her sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), her husband John (Peter Gallagher) and John’s old friend Graham (the brilliant James Spader). Ann lives her life to be the opposite of her sister’s; her sister on the other hand is having an affair with John. That accounts for the ‘sex’ and ‘lies’. In to the mix comes Graham- who besides being a strange ‘arty’ young man- has the unpopular hobby of filming women talk about their sex lives for future personal viewing. Of course, the two women of the story will inevitably find their way in to his videotape collection which makes things more complex- or as Cynthia says in the film, probably more simple. Things become more starkly black and white once truth has been recorded on film.

While all of this makes for interesting fodder for the mind, there seems to be a certain glue lacking in the film that would have otherwise prevented the climax from drifting off; unfortunately the premise of sex, lies and videotape is it’s plot.


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